Little Shop of horror for parents

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014
Oscar Million
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
POSITIVE ASSOCIATION: Little shop collectibles have helped Oscar Million cope with his food allergies.

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Parents, brace yourselves for heavier shopping baskets, lighter wallets and excited children, New World's Little Shop is back.

The supermarket's hugely-popular collectible craze relaunches tomorrow with new mini grocery items as well as the return of last year's favourite brands but in new flavours and varieties.

Shoppers can get one collectible item with every $40 spent, with a total of 50 to collect.

Limited edition collectibles, new accessories and the chance to win Little Shop electric ride-on trucks and miniature Sealord fishing boats have also been added to the basket of goodies on offer.

New accessories this year include a Little Shop delivery truck, apron and shopping bag set, a check-out counter and storage boxes.

Foodstuffs general manager of marketing, Steve Bayliss, said the supermarket chain was delighted to bring back Little Shop.

"We knew Little Shop was going to be a hit last year but we didn't anticipate the degree of popularity."

The first round was part of New World's 50th birthday celebrations and collecting the complete set of 44 items became a nationwide craze after they came out on September 2 last year.

Favourite grocery items last year included a miniature Marmite, Milo, Whittaker's chocolate, Pam's Peanut Butter and Pump water bottle.

Despite being technically forbidden, onselling the toys to get a complete set was rampant, and individual toys, sets, and accessories reached exorbitant prices on TradeMe and social media sites.

One complete set of the miniatures sold for $540 and, at one stage, TradeMe estimated there were 1000 listings for Little Shop. A Facebook page dedicated to swapping the groceries attracted 1470 members.

New World also organised swap meets for people to attend to attempt to complete their set.

This year the supermarket had introduced a Facebook app that allowed shoppers to track their collection and ensured they could swap and trade their mini collectibles without having to pay the prices they faced last year, Bayliss said.

The promotion was fantastic for customer engagement, Bayliss said, with checkout staff loving the conversations with mums trying to complete sets, as well as seeing excited kids.

The Little Shop concept originated from a Dutch supermarket chain which ran a miniature campaign as part of its 125th anniversary. Foodstuffs then adapted the idea for New Zealand products.

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OSCAR'S FUN A SERIOUS MATTER

Oscar Million is severely allergic to an almost-endless list of foods but New World's Little Shop collectibles have helped him form a positive association with food.

Oscar's mother, Lisa Wellbourne, said the four-year-old had suffered anaphylaxis twice because of his food allergies, so understandably he had anxieties when it came to food.

Starship National Children's Hospital had been using the mini collectibles to help familiarise Oscar with foods he was not able to touch or eat, while also helping reduce his fear of food, Wellbourne said.

"For me, it's a good, positive association between foods that could cause him a lot of harm."

Wellbourne said witnessing Oscar's Little Shop treatment had also helped her conquer anxieties about her son's food allergies.

Starship clinical psychologist Linda Chard said the Little Shop collectibles were more successful in treatment than other fake foods she had used in the past, because they closely resembled New Zealand brands children recognised.

Chard said she had used the mini groceries to help treat children with problems that had resulted in food anxiety. The collectibles helped desensitise the children to food and helped them conquer their fear.

- Sunday Star Times

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