Anatomy of a product rollout


Scott Rhodes knew that for his innovative “dumpster in a bag” product — the Bagster — to make an impact in the home channel, it was imperative to forge relationships with major dealers.


“We knew we needed a national footprint to expand our retail distribution with Home Depot and Lowe’s,” said Rhodes, co-founder of the product and now a director at Waste Management Inc., the parent company. Bagster is Waste Management’s first retail product. 


“We saw a large void in the market,” he said. “We also saw the opportunity for Bagster to be a disruptive innovation for small waste removal through the combination of the customer experience and underlying business model.”


That was in May 2010. Today, Bagster is sold across 40 states and most parts of Canada at more than 4,000 home improvement and hardware stores, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Ace Hardware, True Value, 84 Lumber and Do it Best stores.


The product — a 3 cu. yd. polypropylene bag, measuring 8 ft. long, 4 ft. wide and 2.5 ft. tall — is aimed at small-job contractors and DIY enthusiasts. The customer base split is almost 50/50 between individual consumers and contractors.


Rhodes said awareness of Bagster is still low but gaining traction. “We had a pretty Herculean effort to create awareness with consumers,” Rhodes said, mentioning advertising and social media among the tactics. “The good news is once people use it, they love it.”


Waste Management is exploring other potential Bagster applications, including different size bags and — important for its green positioning — ways to recycle contents and bags. Being “green” is part of Rhodes’ agenda. The company recycles materials that consumers put into bags, as well as the bags themselves. The polypropylene material, for example, can be recycled for carpet backing.


HOW IT WORKS

The Bagster is user friendly and easy to grasp, retailers said. Customers buy the bags at retail or online for roughly $29.95 (up to $39.99), fill the bag with up to 3,300 lbs. of waste, and then schedule a collection with Waste Management. The company dispatches a truck with mounted crane arm for removal within 72 hours. The collection fee of about $109 is not included in the original purchase price.


RETAILERS RESPOND 

84 Lumber, in Irondale, Ala., was among the first hardware/home improvement dealers to carry Bagster. Co-manager John Hughes, whose business is mostly new-home construction, saw an immediate response when he first displayed the bags on an endcap near the front entrance. 


“We have had the bags since early 2010 and sold more than 80 since then,” he said, noting that the damage left by nearby tornadoes this spring has also enhanced sales. “We sell a lot of them. It’s a novel product that I wish I would have thought of myself.” 


Ryan Jenkins, manager of O’Donnell Ace Hardware, Des Moines, Iowa, said most of his customers use Bagster for remodeling jobs, roofing, concrete, stone work or merely organizing an attic or garage. “They use this product especially if they have a lot of construction material and don’t need a regular dumpster,” he said. 


He has carried Bagster for more than a year and merchandises the product in the lawn and garden department near the heavy trash bags.


Chris Sterk, manager of Johnston Ace Hardware, Johnston, Iowa, said the inexpensive cost and ease of use have made Bagster the ideal on-demand waste-removal solution. “The product does a good job selling itself,” he said. “Typically customers know right away what it is and what it is used for.” 


Allen Antonio, owner of Hueytown Hardware & Supply, Hueytown, Ala., built a large display using PVC pipe to showcase Bagster near his front entrance. “It was a pretty neat display if I must say so myself,” Antonio said. “It has been an attention grabber.”


Likewise, Scherer Brothers Lumber, Minneapolis, displays the Bagster near its center entrance. “The display is in an open square, propped up by plastic piping,” said Kurt Netzer, sales manager. “It’s worked really well; people are drawn to it. We sell the product on a regular basis.” 


David Williams, co-owner of Gil’s Hardware, Smyrna, Tenn., merchandises Bagster in a display rack in the front of the store. “It’s a pretty neat product,” he said. “My wife Ginny ordered a bunch of them, and the next thing you know there’s only one left.” 


DISASTERS
An additional benefit of Bagster has been its use in natural disasters, including floods and tornadoes that have hammered the Midwest and South over the past two years. When Nashville, Tenn., was affected by widespread flooding in 2010, Waste Management deployed 19 team members and 12 drivers to help out. 


In fact, the Nashville flooding coincided with Bagster’s national rollout. Initially there were 150 Bagsters in Nashville-area Home Depot stores. The bags sold out in the first couple of days, after which Home Depot stores ordered 800 additional bags. Eddie Kirkus, marketing manager for Bagster, worked with the local retailers to set up tents so residents would have easy access to the bags. In some cases, as demand grew too high for the stores to handle, Waste Management directed customers to thebagster.com for purchase.


Bagster was introduced as a product in Waste Management’s mix of hurricane preparedness and recovery services. Bagster is meant for situations where there is a need to discard more debris than can fit in a typical bin or garbage receptacle but not enough to require a dumpster. “People dealing with storm cleanup are finding that Bagster is an excellent option,” Rhodes said. 


The Bagster holds less than a dumpster but also costs less, for which rental can run $250 to $300. There is also no time limit for Bagster compared with renting a dumpster. Once filled, Bagster must be placed within 16 ft. of a driveway or street for removal purposes.