Wild Oats isn't the only brand disappearing from the shelves at Wal-Mart Stores.
Price First, an opening price-point brand introduced around the same time that the Wild Oats brand was populating shelves at Walmart stores in 2014, is being phased out this year, a company spokesman told SN Tuesday.
Although Walmart declined comment on published reports this week that its deal with Wild Oats owner Yucaipa Cos. was winding down, that move and the concurrent retirement of the Price First brand suggests Walmart is asking its national brand equivalent, Great Value, to do more to gather both organic-food shoppers and price-sensitive shoppers.
Price First was designed to help Walmart's Supercenters and Neighborhood Market stores better compete for the shoppers at hard discounters like Aldi, executives said in 2014. Items featured a stark, "no-frills" style label across multiple dry-grocery and consumable categories, but it appears that customers may have had difficulty distinguishing it from the Great Value line.
Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales told SN Tuesday that certain items from the Price First line are now coming in in packer labels, and that recent price investments includes items under the Great Value brand.
While the brand selections are changing, Walmart appears not to be retreating from either organic or value, and remains committed to private label as an element of its strategy.
"We've offered organic items for years, and know that more customers are looking for them in more aisles across our stores. Customers will see more organic under the Great Value brand, along with a great assortment of the national brand organics they're looking for," Ales said. "Our customers know the Great Value brand and trust the quality it stands for."
Steve Bratspies, Walmart's new chief merchandising officer, in a presentation last month noted that private brands was a "key loyalty builder" at Walmart, saying shoppers who buy them tend to make more frequent trips and have higher basket rings than non-private brand buyers. He also said Walmart was was increasing private brands in new items and overall SKUs.
"We believe winning with private brands comes down to three things: It's price, innovation and quality," Bratspies said. "And we're spending a lot of effort to invest in product development, sourcing, technology, new talent to be able to build this business."
Recent print circulars from Walmart include two pages of organic items under a variety of brands including Great Value.
There may also be a financial benefit to the move away from Wild Oats, natural products consultant Jay Jacobowitz of Retail Insights, Brattleboro, Vt., told SN Tuesday.
"I think Yucaipa had sold Walmart on the idea that the Wild Oats brand brought with it a name recognition and a pedigree of authenticity that would accelerate Walmart’s foray into organic," Jacobowitz said. "And when that turned out not to be the case, Walmart decided they would be better off building their own private label organically, with greater structural profit margins vs. a third-party license deal.
"That being said, I also never saw the 200, or even 100 SKUs on shelf at the Supercenters or any of the other platforms," Jacobowitz added. "So, it was an inconsistent rollout, at best."
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