When will retailers let brands advertise on shopping bags?

Where can in-store messaging go as retailers continue to move towards clean store policies? Some day it could be the shopping bag.

Retailers are letting other entities onto this prime out-of-store real estate. Pittsburgh-area Giant Eagle is now selling reusable bags for $2.99 sporting the logos of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Ohio State University. And on Oct 15, Whole Foods Market will sell a special-edition Sheryl Crow reusable shopping bag that will support the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Simple Steps” program (see below).

While not yet on the bag itself, manufacturers are also getting into the reusable bag game. For Earth Day, Stop andamp; Shop gave away five reusable bags with the purchase of $15 in General Mills products. Meijer offered a free reusable shopping bag with a $10 purchase of Clorox Co.’s Burt’s Bees stuff. Kmart gave away a reusable bag with the purchase of two Clorox Green Works SKUs. And Aandamp;P offered a reusable Elizabeth Haub Foundation shopping bag with the purchase of two SKUs from Frito-Lay’s Flat Earth brand.

Shopping bags have always helped retailers extend their brand outside the store. And for some stores, the bag also helps shoppers make a social statement–-think of Saks, Bloomingdale’s classic “little brown bag”, and more recently Lululemon’s “Manifesto” bag. We’ll have to see if more stores let third-party brands use that prime real estate to advertise–like Hanger Network is doing with dry cleaners–or whether they keep that space for themselves.

Contributed by Michele Crowley