Merchandising Features / Categories / Channels / Drug / Private Label vs. National Brands / Tactics / Personal Care

Private Eye: Personal Care Potential

Our secret shoppers demonstrate how encouraging product sampling might increase store brand Personal Care penetration

June 30, 2014

Each month, we send out secret shoppers located in various parts of the country to investigate the real-world promotional and merchandising tactics employed

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secret shopping personal care

by retailers across multiple channels. This is where the rubber hits the road in terms of brick-and-mortar store brand promotion—or the lack thereof.

This time around, our shoppers dug into the intricacies of Personal Care products—and all specifically within the drug channel. The stores visited consisted of:

• Rite-Aid in Asheville, N.C.

• Walgreens in Kansas City, Mo.

• Discount Drug Mart in North Royalton, Ohio

• CVS in Downers Grove, Ill.


In-Store Sightings

None of our secret shoppers discovered in-store promotional signage specific to the store brand Personal Care products under their review, with all noted kiosk displays and signs for disposable razors, shaving cream, toothpaste and deodorant dedicated to national brands.

However, all shoppers did find these Personal Care products shelved side-by-side with national brand products, and almost invariably pitted in a national-brand-equivalent (NBE) matchup.

Despite this pitted product parity, none of the retailers visited were making direct comparisons via shelf tags. When asked if he found any shelf tags comparing store brand prices to national brand prices, Michael G., who visited a Walgreens in Kansas City, Mo., noted: “No, although there are discount shelf tags on both national and store brands. Also, the labels of Walgreens’ store-brand products often mention the national brand product to which the store brand is comparable.” So, at Walgreens, on-package comparisons exist—shoppers just need to dig a little deeper in order to formulate conclusions.

While Bill K., who analyzed the tactics at play at a Rite-Aid in Asheville, N.C., saw in-store promotional signage at his Rite-Aid for some store brands, none pertained directly to the Personal Care products within his scope of analysis. This was likewise the case for Allen G. at CVS in Downers Grove, Ill.


Encourage Trial for Converts

Michael offered that he does not typically buy store brand Personal Care products, instead exclusively opting for national brands, in bulk at warehouse/club stores like Costco. But he admitted price must prove a factor for many store brand shoppers within this category. “Price differential may drive more store-brand purchases of Cosmetics and Personal Care products,” he said. “We tend to see real value in the national brands.” However, Michael found some aspects of interest in his store brand selection of toothpaste. “I tried the Well at Walgreens Sensitive Dura-namel toothpaste and found it to be acceptable,” he said. “The taste was OK, not great; the texture seemed less smooth. The packaging (cap design) was identical to the Sensodyne brand that my dentist recommended.”

Amy K. also found design aspects of note worth conveying after her visit to Discount Drug Mart in North Royalton, Ohio. “Most of the Drug Mart Brand products were actually similar in color to the national brands,” she said.

Key words seen as definitive of Personal Care product characteristics also surface in NBE private label brands—such as the use of “white” in a toothpaste product name or “clinical” with deodorant/antiperspirant.

Bill K., who analyzed the tactics at play at a Rite-Aid in Asheville, N.C., typically opts for private label for all of his Personal Care product needs. However, he admitted that Rite-Aid’s store brand packaging “is generally less attractive than the national brands.”

Conversely, Michael was struck by the classy appearance of the largely Cosmetics and Personal Care Walgreens brand, Studio 35. “The store brand Studio 35 has a decidedly sophisticated look to it,” he said.

Like Michael, Amy typically had not previously bought store brands for Personal Care. But after trying the Drug Mart razors from Discount Drug Mart, she noted that she will be buying them again. “After a couple of bad experiences with the store brand razors at other stores, I was pleasantly surprised with the great quality of these Drug Mart razors,” she said. “Even after a couple uses, the razors seem to be staying sharp and not causing any razor burn or cuts. I would definitely buy these again at $2.00 cheaper than the national brand—great quality and fantastic price!”

A common chorus surfaced with this selection of Personal Care products, with price clearly tied at the hip to NBE. When priced at a level “too good to pass up”—with a level of quality that generally meets expectations—repeat purchases will ensue.  

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Recent Articles by Douglas J. Peckenpaugh

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