When they write a history on what happened with retail during the great pandemic of 2020 and, hopefully, only the early months of 2021, many will say that private label — its suppliers and retailers — did its part.
In fact, the category has quietly contributed to the success of mass retail for decades, offering retailers and shoppers new options that simultaneously produced greater profits for merchants and savings for consumers.
But it took this unfortunate pandemic to further show the entire mass retail industry, plus consumers, the role that private label plays in the overall retail arena. After years of living on the fringes of retail marketing, private label suppliers stepped up to the plate when needed, making sure that retailers had enough product during the darkest days of the pandemic last spring. And, giving retailers the opportunity to offer their shoppers a larger choice of product and a chance to pick more affordable merchandise.
What happens to the category as we come out of the pandemic? With the promise that 100 million Americans could get the life-saving vaccine within several months, many experts say that the pandemic, and its awful numbers of sick and dead, will subside. Normalcy, to whatever extent, will return and many old shopping habits also will make their way back.
We asked the experts and the people in the trenches about the recent past as well as the future in our cover story this month. What is clear from their comments is the pride they had in how the category performed over the last 12 months as well as the expectations that the momentum will continue for the category.
And why not? If boom times are just around the corner, there is no reason to believe that private label will not be part of the growth. It will take some work, though. Suppliers and retailers committed to the private label world must invest in the future of the category. They need to pursue new products on a regular basis. They need to make sure that quality stays top of mind and they need to ensure that they offer consumers assortment and great pricing.
The pandemic has changed the way we live and do business. The private label category will emerge from it in better shape than ever and ready to move forward to a bright future.