Officeworks acquires 21% of World’s Biggest Garage Sale, as sustainability drives a retail shift

World's Biggest Garage Sale

The World's Biggest Garage Sale and Officeworks teams. Source: supplied.

Officeworks has acquired a 21% stake in Brisbane social enterprise World’s Biggest Garage Sale, as it commits to improving sustainability practices — and acknowledges changing consumer sentiment.

World’s Biggest Garage Sale (WBGS) is profit-for-purpose business dedicated to repairing, repurposing and reselling second-hand goods, in a bid to build a circular economy and have a positive impact on the environment in the process.

To date, it has diverted some 4 million kilograms of goods from landfill. The social enterprise also provides training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

The relationship between WBGS and Officeworks is not a new one. For the past three years the startup has worked with the retailer to collect, repair and repurpose returned or damaged products — primarily furniture and office supplies.

In 2021, Officeworks was able to reduce its landfill waste by 37%, and recycle a record 92% of its operational waste.

WBGS co-founder and chief executive Yasmin Grigaliunas doesn’t disclose the value of the investment, however, she says the existing partnership enabled the opportunity to scale and build the startup‘s offering.

The team were ready to scale and looking for investment to take the business to the next level, she tells SmartCompany.

“Officeworks were extremely enthusiastic to take part, ” Grigaliunas says.

As with any other investor, the team went through the pitching and due diligence process. But the investment is a “natural progression” for the partners, she adds.

Officeworks has been an early adopter in the sustainability sector, both in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and looking at keeping materials and products in use.

“It creates really exciting opportunities,” Grigaliunas explains.

failure progress Yasmin Grigaliunas

World’s Biggest Garage Sale co-founder Yasmin Grigaliunas. Source: supplied.

A retail transition

Following the acquisition, Officeworks is set to expand its recovery and repair service on a national scale.

The new ‘Circonomy’ brand — a sister company to WBGS — will also include other products that would typically end up in landfill, including those not originally purchased at Officeworks.

The service will be available to businesses and consumers alike, providing a responsible avenue for waste management for retailers.

The new brand is also launching at a time when the circular economy and ‘imperfect’ products are trending.

There is demand from consumers to access ‘variable’ products — that is, the ‘ugly’ fruit and pre-loved electronics that never would have been on the shelves just a few years ago.

Consumers want transparency, Grigaliunas says, and that means there is financial opportunity.

We’re in the midst of a transition in retail, with customers actively seeking out the businesses taking action on sustainability.

“They want their dollar to have impact,” she adds.

Wooing a national retailer like Officeworks

For many startups, and perhaps particularly social enterprises, attracting the interest and the investment of a national brand can be a game changer.

So how did Grigaliunas and her team win over a behemoth like Officeworks?

The founder says it wasn’t much different to working with any other business. What makes a partnership strong is not equal size; it’s transparency, authenticity, trust and value alignment.

The key is to truly understand the needs of your customer and your partners’ customer, to identify the potential opportunity and work towards figuring out exactly what it is — and this means not being intimidated to pick up the phone and hash it out.

“Say yes,” Grigaliunas advises.

“Even though it might not make sense at the time, experiment and learn together.”

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