NEW YORK -- The private-label category continues to expand into new areas, creating a controlled frenzy among retail executives, Brian Sharoff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association here, told SN.
In fact, one might call it a mania, which is what PLMA did in naming its 2002 Private Label Trade Show "Store Brand Mania."
The show is scheduled for Nov. 11 to 13 in Rosemont, Ill., just outside Chicago.
"Each year we try to come up with a theme that reflects what the industry is up to," Sharoff explained, "and using the word 'mania' this year reflects the fact that many companies, including major retail chains, seem to be looking for ways to do more private label, so it's a mania in a very positive sense.
"But over the course of the year that title has been borne out by the chief executive officers of several major chains, who attribute their strong profit gains in part to their private-label programs."
The annual PLMA show here includes trade exhibits and general sessions.
The trade show has grown over the past few years to encompass a broader range of private-label offerings, Sharoff said, and this year's show will extend that range farther to include exhibits featuring gourmet foods and housewares, he pointed out.
According to Sharoff, the gourmet lines on display will go beyond the premium offerings that have become almost traditional to encompass items that don't simply duplicate national brands but are unique in themselves -- items like Punjab spinach sauce, teriyaki rice, black bean and white corn salsa or putanesca sauce for pasta, he said.
These kinds of items are available at specialty stores, Sharoff said, but they are beginning to make their way into mainstream chains like Kroger and Harris Teeter, he noted. "These items might not be widespread today but they are the types of products that will be found in mainstream supermarkets in the next few years, just as Hispanic products have become mainstream."
Offering gourmet product lines coincides with the emphasis more retailers are putting on perimeter departments, Sharoff said, "because those are the areas retailers have targeted for growth."
The show will also have a pavilion for specialty housewares and do-it-yourself products "because there is evidence that supermarkets and mass merchants, and to a lesser degree, drug stores, are looking for new nonfood lines to broaden their private-label base, so housewares is a natural for that kind of experience," Sharoff said.
"Until now we've seen growth in celebrity lines like those from Martha Stewart, but we're already seeing private-label housewares in stores in Europe, and we're going to see more of that in the states."
This year's show will also expand the space devoted to private-label perishables (including specialty seafood), expand the number of exhibitors of wine, beer and liquor, and increase the number of international pavilions to include representatives from Poland, Belgium, Brazil and Israel, in addition to countries that have participated in previous shows from Mexico, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Costa Rica, Sharoff said.
"Many countries that have smaller gross economic product bases realize they can't hope to compete on the shelves of American supermarkets with brands, so they've decided private-label lines are an effective, efficient method to export products to gain entry to U.S. markets," he explained.
Besides the exhibits, the PLMA show will offer a range of speakers during its three-day run, kicking off on Sunday, Nov. 11, with Paul Weitzel, vice president of Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., discussing the potential of private label at convenience stores.
"There's always been interest among private-label manufacturers in convenience stores because they're viewed, at least on paper, as a good fit, though it's turned out to be a tough fit," Sharoff said. "However, the Bishop people feel convenience stores are going through a reincarnation that could include private label."
The second speaker, Gretchen Gogesch, a consultant, will present a case study on Trader Joe Co., South Pasadena, Calif. -- a company Sharoff said is setting a new standard by combining gourmet foods with a no-frills approach. "Trader Joe will eventually have as much impact on the mix in American supermarkets as President's Choice did when it was introduced 10 years ago," he said.
The third speaker on Nov. 11 will be Meredith Adler, senior vice president with Lehman Brothers, New York, giving a Wall Street perspective on retailing. "It was Wall Street that had a lot to do with creating interest in private label when it defined private label as an integral part of a successful retail formula," Sharoff said, "and a lot of manufacturers and retailers have benefited from that kind of thinking."
The final speaker that day will be Frank Dell, president of Dellmart and Co., who will talk about pricing strategies that retailers can employ for private label to get the best results, Sharoff said.
A breakfast session on Monday, Nov. 12, will feature Gary Michael, retired chairman and CEO of Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, talking about industry consolidation and what that means for private-label manufacturers; a breakfast session on Nov. 13 will feature Wendy Liebman, president of WSL Strategic Retail, talking about retail trends and consumer attitudes.
Sharoff said he does not expect attendance at the PLMA show to suffer because of terrorist fears. "Our turnout last year was within our normal range of 3,500-4,000 people, and we're expecting the same turnout this year," he told SN.
As for extra security measures, Sharoff said PLMA staff will meet with security people at the Rosemont Convention Center where the show is held to go over policies and procedures "and to make sure everyone is aware of the most accurate information," he said.