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2011: The Private Label Sales Picture

March 28, 2012
KEYWORDS Sales Trends
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Dollar sales continued to rise for private label while unit sales fell last year. Read which categories won and which lost. 


BY JOHN N. FRANK

Private label sales in 2011 present a mixed picture-dollar sales rose while unit sales declined, a sign that rising commodity prices and gap adjustments impacted the private label sales picture for the year.
Private label dollar sales rose 5 percent in the 52 weeks ended Dec. 25, 2011, compared with the prior year, to roughly $65.9 billion in 59 categories tracked by Chicago-based research firm SymphonyIRI Group. Private label unit sales fell 1.03 percent for the year to 28.2 million, according to data SymphonyIRI supplied to PLBuyer.
The results mark the second consecutive year in which private label dollar sales rose while unit sales declined, according to SymphonyIRI data.
The year saw private label make sales inroads into categories not traditionally thought of as big private label sellers. At the same time, private label sales lagged in categories that saw a high level of innovations or national brand promotions, analysts agree.

THE UPS
One category where private label made significant sales gains was baby food, notes Matthias Queck, a research director with London-based consulting firm Planet Retail. Private label baby food dollar sales rose 12.60 percent to $24.6 million for the year. Private label baby food unit sales rose 4.99 percent to 26.4 million units.“Even more impressive is the growth of private label in skin care,” says Queck. Private label skin care dollar sales rose 20.22 percent for the year to $164.4 million. Private label skin care unit sales were up 17.05 percent.
Private label was playing catch-up in some categories that had seen national brand innovation prior to 2011, analysts agree. In single-serve coffee, for example, private label sales rose an eye-catching 10,000 percent to $542,159 in 2011.

THE DOWNS
One category where national brand product innovation hurt private label was laundry care, says Jim Wisner, founder of Wisner Marketing, Libertyville, Ill. Private label laundry care dollar sales sank 11 percent in 2011 to $7.7 million while overall laundry care sales fell only 0.89 percent to $416.8 million.
Refrigerated juices was another category where overall dollar sales rose while private label sales sank.
Total category sales reached $4.5 billion, a gain of 2.96 percent for the year, while private label sales fell 2.39 percent to $526.6 million.

Editor’s note: For the full listing of category data see the February 2012 issue of PLBuyer.

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