D&W's Private-Label Balancing Act

Having cost-conscious private-label products in an upscale store might seem like an oxymoron. But according to Dennis Eidson, president and chief operating officer for Spartan Stores, the demand for certain less expensive items is very real. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer conducts extensive market research to determine what consumers want in each of its banner stores, which include both conventional

Having cost-conscious private-label products in an upscale store might seem like an oxymoron. But according to Dennis Eidson, president and chief operating officer for Spartan Stores, the demand for certain less expensive items is very real.

The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer conducts extensive market research to determine what consumers want in each of its banner stores, which include both conventional formats and a high-end supermarket — D&W Fresh Market.

“Even in higher-end stores such as our D&W chain, customers often want a value brand of a particular item,” said Eidson. “The number of [private-label] items in any particular category will vary by banner and by store, though. We may offer more of a value selection in our Family Fare, Glen's and Felpausch stores, but even D&W customers want value in some items so they can select higher-end brands in other categories.”

Spartan has selected a handful of private-label brands for its D&W locations, acquired in 2006. Its own Spartan-branded products — cereals, baby products, dairy, snacks, paper products, cleaning items and meat, to name a few — are sold there.

The private-label brand, launched in 1957, was sold in D&W stores for decades when the chain was an independent Spartan customer. However, D&W stopped carrying the Spartan line of products four years before the acquisition.

“Customers were very pleased to once again get Spartan-brand products at D&W,” said Eidson.

They were equally pleased when an assortment of Spartan's Full Circle organic items showed up at D&W. The Full Circle line includes hundreds of items in frozens, Center Store, dairy and virtually every section of the store.

The decision to expand D&W's organic selection using the retailer's own brand was an easy one, Eidson told SN.

“This is an organic brand that gives customers yet another choice in organics, and we believe that if we are going to offer more, why not ours?” he said.

Another obvious choice for D&W was President's Choice. The retailer's stores carry everything from President's Choice Decadent Gourmet Cookies to Lemon Pepper Frozen Chicken Breasts and Chilled Chicken Wings.

Even the retailer's bakery boasts private-label breads. While La Brea breads are frequently promoted and featured there, Aroma Street Bakery is offered as a more affordable option for shoppers seeking breads made fresh daily in-store.

Aroma Street Bakery items include iced sugar cookies, turnovers, Portuguese rolls, brownie bites, fruit-topped tarts, bagels, a full range of cakes and over 15 varieties of crusty artisan breads.

Having such a wide array of choices, from high-end gourmet to lower-priced quality private-label goods, has proved to be a successful strategy, said Eidson.