Private brands are, well . . . more private than ever!

A recent study was presented at the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) show at the end of 2007.  The study revealed that 41% of U.S. shoppers identify themselves as frequent purchasers of store brands.  Our own findings from 2007 have revealed the one glitch in the stat . . . plenty of shoppers don’t know when they are buying a store brand!

Private labels used to fall into one category:  value.  Now retailers are making it their business to offer multi-tiered store brand strategies that feature value, brand equivalent and premium offerings; the last two often qualifying as the real deal with consumers.  No wonder; most of the suppliers making those brands also make the name brands, so they’re not exactly reinventing the wheel.  Mothers have told us confidently that they buy “Carter’s” at Wal-Mart (well, kind of . . . it’s Child of Mine by Carter’s, a separate brand sold exclusively to Wal-Mart and made by a select group of Carter’s licensees), that Kirkland (Costco’s mega-watt private label) is their favorite national brand by far and that 365 is their favorite organic food splurge (Whole Food’s PL).

The fact is, U.S. consumers are buying private labels in droves and without knowing it, yet as developed as private label may already seem to be here, it’s still much more prevalent in Europe (there’s significant room to grow).  All of the brand tracking will be pointless; however, until the industry gets more comfortable breaking out the numbers to reflect the increasingly muddy differences between private label, proprietary brands, exclusive licenses, and short-term exclusive alliances.

Surely there’s a better term out there that will encompass the evolution . . . You know I’m working on it!

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