Follow the leaders
It did not take me long to learn what separates the leading suppliers in the private label/store brands industry from the laggards.
From this angle, at least, and with less than two months on the job as publisher and editor in chief of Store Brands, it is clear that the leaders in the industry are those suppliers who are backing up their product lines with complete, well-developed marketing programs. That starts with instituting the proper research and development to ensure that the product is not only of equal or superior quality to the equivalent national brand, but offers something a bit different to an increasingly fickle consumer.
It is much more than that, though. Everything from packaging to pricing and support must be discussed and developed to help your retail partners both differentiate the store brand products from the national brand, and educate the consumer on the difference and why they should try their merchandise.
So far, I am not sure that a lot of suppliers are doing their part. In fact, in my desire to learn as much about this category as possible, I have quickly found that at least half of the companies I have contacted have little desire to develop marketing and support plans that will lead to long-term success. Some argue that they simply do not have the financial capital to develop such plans; others say that they just do not have the interest.
Of course, not everyone falls into these groups. Some companies are actually eager to develop the strategies necessary to win over retailers and consumers, as well as compete with national brands. And, many of them seem to understand that this is an investment that might take a few years to pay for itself.
Yet, the bottom line is that if you want to play in the big leagues with the big boys, you are going to have to cough up some cash. Store brands are becoming larger and larger parts of the overall mass retail business model. But, in the end, it will be the companies who want to be in the game for the long run — and are willing to invest in it — that will be the most successful.