Isn't it ironic that a phenomenon that elicits worldwide attention year after year is still referred to as "private"?
I'm alluding to private label products, which successfully shunned the low-quality stigma to grow into well-recognized names that now compete on par with the national brands.
Supermarket retailers have not only used store brands to reap profits, they have done something more important. They have created a permanent home for themselves in consumers' minds and in their cupboards with brands such as A&P's Master Choice, Kroger's Private Selection, Safeway Select, H.T. Traders, Trader Joe's and Wegmans, to name a few.
The industry speculates that if a retailer makes the effort to connect with its community through private label promotions, it may very well endear itself to its shoppers faster than a store that offers the lowest prices.
Consumer acceptance of private label's quality isn't an issue any more, according to Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association. In his opinion, retailers are now free to concentrate on developing their store lines to increase their bottom line.
Studies indicate this is happening. Private label has contributed greatly to bottom lines, with private label dollar gains surpassing those of national brands in recent years.
In fact, as published by SN in a special supplement devoted to the category last fall, for the 52-week period ended April 23, 2000, private label brands ranked No. 1 in 79 product categories, or 29.7% of those categories tracked by Information Resources.
This momentum is expected to continue, especially as retailers and manufacturers take full advantage of electronic marketplaces, global data management and seamless supply systems to sell private label merchandise.
Issues such as these will be the focus during PLMA's Annual Meeting and Leadership Conference, March 29 to April 1, at the Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in Aventura, Fla. The meeting, "2001: A Sales Odyssey," is open to retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, brokers and trade suppliers.
Featured guest speaker Craig Espelien, corporate director of store brands, Supervalu, will examine the private label process from a buyer's perspective. He'll discuss a nationwide go-to-market strategy in program development, planning, implementation and promotion. Other speakers plan to cover topics that range from effective supply chain solutions in today's selling environment; selling private label and the skills needed to deal with retail buyers; and a report on the financial status and health of many of today's top retailers. The meeting is expected to draw approximately 300 executives from PLMA member companies.
So in recognition of private label's public acceptance, rising sales and contribution to food retailing, SN also will spotlight the popular genre to give food executives a more in-depth look into private label's many facets. In addition to our regular news coverage of store brand development, we will present four special supplements this year. In April, we'll report on a higher-end private label tier -- the private-gourmet category.
Later, we'll explore private label produce in June and health and beauty care in an early fall issue. We'll wrap up our coverage in October with a detailed overview of the entire private label industry.