Store Brands delivers unprecedented strategic and tactical information needed by retail executives to develop and support compelling, differentiated store brand programs to build customer loyalty.
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Special Report: Retailer-Supplier Roundtable 1 8 Store Brands / December 2015 / www.storebrands.info looking for might not be on the packaging, but we're trying to communicate through the packaging the main benefit of the product," she stressed. Kum & Go also has reached out to its shoppers to determine what types of product information and claims they are seeking, Kouri noted — most recently, with a Facebook and in-person survey not specific to own-brand products. Perhaps not surprisingly, the responses on the convenience store side differ a bit from those heard in the grocery and drug channels. "It's kind of more basic for our shoppers — more like high protein, low fat, reduced sugar," she said. "They're not really looking for non-GMO, gluten- free, things like that. … But we're finding that they are looking for some healthy things." Even with shopper input, it can be difficult to manage communication of product information. For example, The Fresh Market has a shelf-tag system to help convey product attributes, but Oas said the challenge lies in knowing what the most relevant attributes are at any given time. "You might have a scheme that allows you to put four, six attributes on a bib tag," she said. "While that may be relevant today, next month something else could be more important to the customer. "The other limitation is controlling what [product] gets what, the hierarchy of meaningful attributes," she added." And sometimes the consumer wants to know more about a private brand product than the retailer is able to answer through packaging or shelf tags, prompting the shopper to call the retailer or submit a question via the retailer's website. In the past, many retailers were hesitant to connect those shoppers directly to the manufacturer, but that reality is changing, Coleman noted. "We're seeing more retailers today … giving out our number and saying, 'Call these folks,'" he said. "The problem is, we're getting hit with so many questions: GMO, natural — and what is natural? If we went around the room, everyone would give you a different answer." When it comes to its private brand non- prescription drugs, sun care items and many other health and beauty products, Rexall will place the manufacturer's information right on the package, Kaplan said, but customers still tend to call the retailer with questions. Packaging matters Products are not the only focus when it comes to own- brand transparency. The packaging also comes into play in consumers' "need to know." Complicating the situation is the fact that for commodities, the packaging decisions often are made by the manufacturer. Oas noted that when The Fresh Market converted its glass bottle milk program to plastic, many customers called to express their anger, accusing the retailer of making the change for profit reasons. The retailer had to explain that it wasn't all about profit — it was the packager's decision to make the switch. But The Fresh Market took it a step farther to be candid with its customers about the glass bottles, explaining that the road to get the bottles required they be sourced from overseas, and that the firing process for glass was an energy-intensive process. "So you have to try to turn the dialogue around to what is relevant to the customer and that will make it acceptable," she said. "It's daunting, as it might require that you do an education you don't have time for, but if you're going to make a major change like that, you have to be prepared for people to be very upset about it and to answer the criticism in an honest, informative way." A relatively new packaging concern Metro needs to consider is over-packaging, Gibson said. For example, "in cereals, people ask why it is in a box and then inside a plastic bag. We've been getting more of that in the last two years," she said. And according to Langlands, Pharmasave hears two common complaints tied to its private brand over-the-counter medications: the bottles are too large for the contents inside and the print is too small to read. The retailer explains that it must include the required regulatory text and uses the smallest container that can still accommodate that text. "That's where we work in partnership with our vendors," she explained, "and we do have some standard responses that have been drafted if a consumer Sean Thompson, senior director of mer- chandising, private brands, 7-Eleven Inc. Erin Kouri, category manager, owned brands, Kum & Go; Nate Shotwell, director, new own brands and innovation, Meijer Inc.