Questions/Answers: PLMA sizes up impact of COVID-19

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Brian Sharoff

In his nearly 40 years as the president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association, Brian Sharoff and the private brand industry has not seen anything as tumultuous as the coronavirus pandemic — let alone on a global scale. In fact, the industry association, which has tremendous global outreach, even had to move its 2020 World of Private Label event scheduled for May 26-27 in Amsterdam to Dec. 2-3.

Store Brands asked Sharoff just what he’s seeing with the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the private label industry.

Store Brands: With the coronavirus crisis continuing to impact society, what role do you see mass retailers and private label suppliers playing?
Brian Sharoff: Lockdown makes it very difficult for any business or organization to be helpful. This is a public health crisis first and foremost. Once the public gets past the severe contagion, then retailers can be helpful in providing relevant information to their customers. Many retailers have already demonstrated sensitivity to senior citizens, disabled and others who are the targets of coronavirus. They can rally community spirit and demonstrate how working together, whether locally or regionally, is the best protection against such pandemics. 

SB: What role can private label/store brands play in this process? What do retailers need to do here?
BS: Private label can be very effective in sending messages to consumers since it carries the name or logo of the retailer, which, as has been confirmed before, is trusted and respected. 

SB: As the situation improves, what advice do you have for the private label industry?
BS: Staying ahead of the curve is very important. Identifying which problems, such as international supply chain issues, community relations, store management policies, etc., are in need of review and repair would be most important. It is evident that we were not as prepared as possible for a pandemic. Understanding why will be crucial. 

SB: Tell us about your upcoming events in the fall and how they can help the industry rebuild.
BS: PLMA’s next program will be the Washington Conference which will take place Oct. 5-6. We will hold several introspective sessions to discuss how the private label industry can prepare for natural disasters and pandemics. After that will be the Chicago trade show which will help retailers and manufacturers start the road back to normalcy.

PLMA’s international show, originally scheduled for May, has been postponed to Dec. 2-3 due to government restrictions on large gatherings. The international show will permit buyers and sellers from over a hundred countries to reaffirm relationships and solve lingering supply chain issues.