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Private Brands Should Lead With Quality Rather Than Reduced Price

Attention all shoppers: The alleged new frugality is a myth! That's according to Melissa Abbott of the Hartman Group. I just checked my dwindling cash supply and I think she's right.

She recognized that shoppers are engaging in the "theatrics of thrift," or altering their shopping behavior to help ease a collective anxiety. They're bargain hunting to alleviate stress, and truly believe that they're saving money, but when it comes down to it they can't account for where savings have gone.

Shoppers aren't trading down consistently, especially when it comes to products they hold near and dear, but in many categories they've traded to private labels, Abbott said. Eighty-six percent will continue the behavior when the economy improves, with the remainder going back to their trusted national brands.

For many shoppers, like myself, the practice of turning to store brands in certain categories is already engrained. I could relate to the shopper that Melissa studied. The woman bypassed a temporary price reduction on a national brand she trusted in the shredded cheese section, for a private brand that wasn't on sale. When questioned she said she hadn't noticed the sale since she's used to grabbing the private brand in that section.

The story brought to mind something I learned in an earlier session: Mark Lang, a professor at St. Joseph's University let retailers know that if they're promoting private labels with price reductions they need to stop, since low prices on corporate brands are already a given for shoppers. Instead store brand marketers need to lead with a quality message.

Abbott said retailers should consider the key quality drivers for food and beverage, which are unique flavors, globally inspired foods and products that are natural/less processed.