Unloved stock: a surprising lifeline for families and businesses alike

16 January 2023

By Steph McGinty, Managing Director, Company Shop Group

We are all aware of the challenges facing families up and down the country. As the cost of living crisis deepens, the additional financial pressures of the Christmas period mean people are struggling more than ever to make ends meet this December, and having to choose in many cases between heating and eating.

At the same time, businesses are looking for ways to increase efficiencies to help keep goods and services affordable for consumers and trying to find ways to support and retain their people.

As unlikely at it sounds, surplus stock provides an opportunity to provide a little relief to these challenging scenarios.


Surplus stock – stock that for one reason or another can no longer be used for the purpose it was originally intended, and could therefore be destined to end up as waste – has the potential to support families, communities and businesses. 

Transforming surplus stock into something valuable is at the heart of what Company Shop Group has been doing for over 50 years.

We give businesses the chance to sell us their surplus stock – providing a financial return for products that could otherwise end up costing them to dispose of as waste. Then we take the surplus and use our expertise to make it ready for consumers to buy. For example, a product with a misprinted label can be reprinted accurately and applied in our distribution centre.

These products are then made available – at deeply discounted prices – through our Company Shop stores to some of the most hard-working people in the country, like key workers and food supply chain and logistics employees. This helps stretched budgets go much, much further and is a source of relief for hundreds of thousands of people, as well as a way of ensuring perfectly good products can still be used as originally intended. And, as many of our suppliers can also offer membership to their employees, we provide a free and tangible employee benefit that supports the overall remuneration offer.

In Scotland, we operate two Company Shops – in Edinburgh and Renfrew – and members in these stores have already collectively saved over £7.5m this year on their shopping bills with us.

In the last 10 years, we’ve provided over £165m back to industry through the purchase of this surplus stock, which in the last year alone, prevented more than 34,500 tonnes of waste and created the equivalent of 82 million meals. We’re proud to count the likes of Baxters, Lees of Scotland and Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and Princes as just a few of our key clients and we work with many more including all of the major supermarket chains and manufacturers. 

We also operate an award-winning social enterprise, Community Shop, powered by surplus products and supporting some of the most vulnerable members of society. Community Shop uses donations of surplus stock to take away the immediate worry of food insecurity while also providing development programmes to help build stronger individuals and more confident communities. Our Community Shop cafes provide wholesome meals at affordable prices and kids can eat for free. It’s a unique proposition and a lifeline for many, who cite improved health and wellbeing, and a return to employment and education as just some of the many benefits realised.

So, while surplus is an unlikely source of help in these incredibly tough times, it’s actually a simple, but incredibly effective, way to provide financial, social and environmental benefits when put into the right hands.

Now, more than ever, with businesses looking for improvements to processes, we say look out for the opportunities in your warehouses and on your production lines and don’t think of surplus as ‘potential waste’, think of it as ‘potential for good’.

To note: This article was orginally published in the Scotsman on 13 December 2022.