Data / Merchandising Features / Tactics
Private Eye: Personal Care

Private Label Gets Personal

Our secret shoppers head to their local retailers to find out what’s happening in personal care.

September 12, 2013
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Soap was a more than $4 billion category for the latest 52 weeks ending July 14, 2013, up 2 percent, according to IRI data. Private label liquid body wash/all other

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brought in more than $126 million under this category, showing a less than 1 percent decrease in sales. The shampoo category overall rose 2 percent to make it a more than $2 billion category, while private label shampoos saw decreases in sales. Likewise, private label hand and body lotion dropped about 3 percent to $133 million, while the category overall rose 4 percent. Private label razors are strong, however, and had a 22 percent increase, up to $17 million.

PLBuyer sent five of its secret shoppers to check out personal care products at supermarkets, drugstores, and mass merchandisers, including a Target in Kansas City, Mo.; a Jewel-Osco in Evanston, Ill.; a Walgreens in Colorado Springs, Colo.; a CVS/pharmacy in Asheville, N.C.; and a Super Saver store (owned and operated by B&R Stores, Inc.) in Columbus, Neb.

We asked them to evaluate how their local retailers market and merchandise their personal care products. 

In addition to looking for in-store promotions and advertising, shoppers recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand body lotion, shampoo, body wash, and razors. They then conducted their own product tests in one of these categories.

Here, we provide you with our gathered insight.

Side by Side

Private label personal care products are typically national brand equivalent (NBE) products, so it’s not surprising that all five of the secret shoppers this month reported seeing private label personal care products shelved side-by-side with national brands.

 “Store brand packaging specifically references comparable national brand products next to which the store brands are shelvd. Some national brands have ‘shelf special’ tags, but the prices still are greater than the store brands.”

 “Store brand packaging specifically references comparable national brand products next to which the store brands are shelved,” Michael G. said about the Target he visited. “Some national brands have ‘shelf special’ tags, but the prices still are greater than the store brands.”

However, while products were shelved next to national brands, none of the secret shoppers saw price tags comparing the private labels to brands. Additionally, only the supermarket shoppers, Ben R. at Jewel-Osco and Sarah C. at Super Saver, saw in-store private label ads.

Private label razors were the big savers this month, offering huge discounts over the national brands.

Michael noted the store brand price for Target’s Up & Up twin blade plus disposable razors was more than 300 percent lower than the national brand Gillette Good News! Price, and was “by far the greatest price difference I’ve ever seen in four years of price comparisons for PLBuyer.”

At Jewel-Osco, Ben saw the store brand for almost $3 less than Gillette, and the package had two more razors. At CVS/pharmacy, Bill K. reported the same size Gillette Mach 3 pack of razors was $3.20 more than the new CVS Magnum 3 razors. At Super Saver, Sarah saw five Gillette Daisy disposable razors for $4.58, while five of the Best Choice store brand disposables were only $1.48. According to Christina R., Walgreens’ new Sunny Smile four-pack of 3-blade razors were similarly priced to Super Saver’s store brand at $1.69, or 2 for $3 with a Walgreens rewards card. The comparably-sized pack of national brand Simply Venus was $8.29 at Walgreens, a more than 400 percent price increase. 

Walgreens also offered W Ultra Moisture body wash for $0.41 less than the sale price of the same size Olay Ultra Moisture body wash.  In the Target Michael visited, store brand Up & Up extra fresh body wash compared to Dove Men + Care extra fresh, but was $1.95 less. However, the national brand was offering a bonus face lotion with purchase, which could sway consumers to buy the more-expensive brand anyway.

Bill reported that CVS/pharmacy had new CVS Deep Moisture shampoo to compare to the same size Tresemme Luxurious Moisture for $1.40 less. Christina reported the recently revamped Walgreens Studio 35 Beauty line offers a Classic Scent Lotion (with cherry almond fragrance) to compare to Jergens Original, with a savings of $2.30 over the national brand.

Product Tests          

“I tried the Studio 35 beauty body lotion and it smells great and it kept my skin moisturized for the afternoon,” praised Christina.

Michael had a different experience with the fragrance of his Target product.

“I tried the Up & Up body wash sport and found it acceptable as body wash, if a bit overdone from a fragrance perspective,” said Michael. He concluded he would most likely stick with the Dove Men + Care line.

Ben purchased the Essential Everyday body lotion at Jewel-Osco. “As many other brand name lotions are nicely scented, this one has no scent at all,” he said, but noted that it seemed as if the product is more loose and moist than the brand name lotions.

 “The lotions don’t seem too different,” Sarah said of the Best Choice private label lotion at her Super Saver. “Both have water as their first ingredient. When needing more than one for our family, price is important.”  

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