Sin No More

June 1, 2009
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Ask today's cash-strapped consumers what they want most from a supermarket, and they're likely to answer "good value." But according to a recent article, many supermarkets are doing a poor job highlighting the values available in their stores.

Ask today's cash-strapped consumers what they want most from a supermarket, and they're likely to answer "good value." But according to an article in the May issue of Competitive Edge, Willard Bishop's monthly e-newsletter, many supermarkets are doing a poor job highlighting the values available in their stores.

In fact, said author Jon Hauptman, a partner at the Barrington, Ill.-based firm, "Many retailers are unintentionally constructing barriers that prevent shoppers from finding and appreciating the great values offered."

Not surprisingly, one of the top 10 "value communication sins” described by Hauptman surrounds the under-utilization of store brands.

"While most retailers across the country offer store brands, many don't adequately educate shoppers about the true value associated with these items, nor do they effectively call attention to their brands on special displays or at the shelf," he explained. "But communicating value associated with store brands is critically important to establishing and maintaining a strong price image."

To better highlight their private label offerings, Hauptman suggested a couple of simple strategies, including explaining why the store brand is such a great value (e.g., national brand quality at a lower price, best seller in the category, top-notch ingredients, etc.); highlighting the availability of store brands at the shelf through preferred positioning, shelf talkers, etc.; and calculating the savings realized by choosing the store brand over a national brand - both at the shelf and at the front-end.

"H-E-B [San Antonio, Texas] is among the very best at promoting the value of its store brands offerings," Hauptman told PL Buyer. "It has 'compare and save' shelf talkers in selected categories that calculate the dollar savings associated with trading from a national brand to the comparable H-E-B brand and trading from the national brand to it Hill Country Fare economy brands."

Although H-E-B remains committed to its economy brand, Hauptman said a lot of other retailers have delisted value/economy store brands in recent years as a result of slow sales, committing another of his value communication sins.

"A robust assortment of value/economy brands enhances price image by providing shoppers with options to make money-saving tradeoffs in those categories in which a shopper wants to do so, thereby neutralizing a key advantage of extreme-value formats such as limited-assortment stores, dollar stores and supercenters that are well-known for their strong value offerings," Hauptman explained.

Although strong sales shouldn't be the primary measure of success for a chain's economy private label, Hauptman offered a few suggestions designed to help such programs realize their full potential: Make sure the line covers every major category across the store; price economy brand items below comparable mainline store brand alternatives; and communicate the availability of value/economy items at the shelf, in ads and in other communication vehicles as "one of the ways to save" in the store.

The other top 10 value communication sins described by Hauptman include:

  • Vague and varied price/value messages
  • Inconsistent communication tactics across departments
  • Too subtle signs and tags
  • Assuming more promotions are better
  • Hiding the savings
  • Leading with large sizes rather than better-selling smaller sizes
  • Assuming premium quality sells itself
  • For more information or to read Hauptman's article in its entirety, go to - by Denise Leathers.

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