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Back-to-school boosts opportunity for private brands

With prices rising, retailers should focus on the value component of private label, says Aimee Becker of retail strategy firm Daymon

With the return of students nationwide to school, after a year of remote and hybrid learning, grocery retailers are anticipating a successful back-to-school selling season. For our latest Off the Shelf podcast, Supermarket News spoke with Aimee Becker, senior vice president strategic advisory at Daymon, a leader and pioneer in private brand development, about the latest trends in back-to-school at retail, the importance of private brands to the category, and the impact of the pandemic on category sales and shopping behaviors as students return to schools.

Becker noted that there are two key factors affecting shoppers as they think about this year’s return to school.

“First, we're really seeing that consumers are being a bit more cautious. With everything that's going on in the world, they're just making sure that they're thinking about their purchases and really thinking about more of a just-in-time inventory in their house, if you will, or pantry stocking, because they want to be prepared for what's to come,” she said. “The second thing is, due to commodity prices and labor shortages, consumers are actually seeing price increases across categories. So, something that's really different this year is that retailers are really in a position to help shoppers not only plan, but really stretch their budget. And that's one of the things we're really excited about, the role private brands can play because they really do play a role in bridging that gap for consumers.”

With consumer trust in private brands at an all-time high, there is a great opportunity to provide consumers with back-to-school products at value prices — from classroom supplies and apparel to snacks and lunch foods and, this year particularly, sanitizers and face masks.

Another trend impacting this year’s back-to-school shopping is the growth of e-commerce. “We're hearing that about 50% of consumers are anticipating shopping online more this year than last year,” said Becker. “So when it comes to marketing — and marketing for back-to-school specifically —omnichannel is more important than ever, making sure that you're appealing to shoppers across platforms and really driving your message across platforms. When it comes to specific messaging, really making it easy for the shoppers — not necessarily talking about the products that we're selling, but more of the solutions that we're bringing, the problems we're solving, the emotional side of how you get stuff done at this time of year. We're definitely thinking that that's going to play a much stronger role as people are really looking to problem-solve as they're heading back to school.”

For more insights from Aimee Becker of Daymon, including marketing strategies for a return to the “lunchbox,” growing awareness of sustainability in back-to-school products and harnessing the power of social media to reach shoppers, listen to the full podcast.

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