PL Buyer: Correcting Some False Assumptions About Today’s Shopper
By John N. Frank
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary
of a current article from Private Label Buyer, presented here for
While many people have discussed a “new consumer” emerging
from the downturn, Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers
Association, believes only about 25 percent have become more frugal or are
experimenting more with store brands to save money.
“The vast majority of consumers, some perhaps struggling more than others,
will continue to do what they’ve always done but attempt to make adjustments
based upon the economy,” said Mr. Sharoff.
Indeed, with over 65 percent
of consumers now saying they buy private label frequently, shoppers are looking
for private label for a variety of reasons beyond price.
“In some cases, they have decided what they are paying for is no different
at $3 a box than $5 a box,” said Mr. Sharoff. [But] there are other categories
where the consumer does believe that price indicates quality. The thing they
buy is their perception. Everyone knows that if you go to a Trader Joe’s
or a Whole Foods or a Kroger, their own brands are as good as the national
But even if the ‘new consumer’ only represents 25 percent of shoppers, their
changing buying patterns are boosting private label expansion and will likely
continue to in the near future.
“I thinks it’s obvious that the recession is not going to be completely
over, and there will still be the impact of the recession on the psychology
of the consumer,” said Mr. Sharoff. “While it’s bad news for consumers,
it’s great news for private label growth.”
He said the decision to buy
private label often comes as consumers become dissatisfied with one of the
products they regularly buy before and start looking for an alternative at
“Private label comes into play when the consumer has to suddenly change
a decision. At that point the question of private label packaging, private
label quality, comes into effect,” said Mr. Sharoff. “A retailer
that has chosen to assign boring packaging to its products and to assign below
grade quality to its ingredients runs the risk of not making a private label
And once they try a private label product, the quality has to be
there for repeat purchase.
Said Mr. Sharoff, “If the quality is high and
meets the expectation of the consumer, then consumers will continue to buy
the product. If the quality misses the mark, then one should not be surprised
if consumers are disappointed in the quality and do not buy the product. The
good news is that concept of quality first has taken hold and the private label
trend is definitely on the upswing.”
Discussion Questions: How do you think the downturn has changed consumers’
perceptions around buying private label products? What will be most important
for store brands to hold onto their market share gains or continue to expand
as the economy improves?