11 Dec 2008

Should name brands discount prices to combat private labels in the recession economy?

Raj Bhatt

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported yesterday that customers are increasingly buying private label store brands due to the poor economy (click here). The article quotes research from Nielsen that shows that private label sales grew 10% YTD whereas name brands grew by 3.5% only over the same period.

Earlier research from Nielsen (click here) shows that consumers increasingly think that store brands are a good alternative to name brands and have a comparable quality. Fewer people (24%) think that name brands are worth the extra price. More people now feel that store brands are not only for consumers on a tight budget.

Category managers must ask themselves: Should I discount my name brand to compete against the store private label?

The answer may be different for different product categories and even for different store formats.

The share of private label products varies across categories (click here). It is high for pet food, frozen/refrigerated food and plastic/paper products. It is very low for beverages, home care, baby food, cosmetics, snacks/ confectionery, and hygiene products.

Surprisingly price differentials between private labels and name brands are lowest in categories where the share of private labels is high (around 20%). Price differentials in some categories where store brands have low share are as high as 40%.

This suggests that the price sensitivity and the importance of brand is different in each category. Name brands should use pricing analytics to understand the share and volume impact of various pricing differentials in the specific category.

For some categories (e.g. bottled water), it may make sense for the name brand to focus on low unit-count packs rather than focusing on the bulk-use packs. Consumers who buy bulk-use packs are more likely to be price sensitive.

It is also important to understand that private label receptiveness is much lower in convenience stores than in grocery chains (click here). It is important for category managers to analyze price sensitivity (by share and volume)for their brand for each retail chain separately. Discounting products in a convenience store chain may yield little/ no benefit whereas it may be a good decision at a wholesale chain.

analytics, brands, Nielsen, pricing, private label, recession

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