Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Private Label: An armour of organized retail

(Article written by self and my colleagues and published in RetailBiz)
A popular story within Food Bazaar as told to us by an employee mentions how Food Bazaar came up with the idea of their own Tasty Treat – the ready-to-eat snacks, a private label of Food Bazaar, when Pepsico’s Frito-Lay decided not to sell to Pantaloons Food Bazaar as they disagreed on terms of trade. And now Tasty Treat competes head on with market leaders like ITC’s Bingo and Pepsico’s Lays and Kurkure in a Rs 2000Cr snack market. Today Pantaloon Retail has more than 80 products comprising 350 SKUs with private labels in four main categories. Encouraged by the success of the private labels, the company is planning to launch more brands in various other categories. PRIL aims that, in the long run these brands will enjoy same trust that the best manufacturers brands enjoy today.
We wonder if this is some indication of how large organized retailers are now leveraging their power and position of being the only one, in entire value chain, in direct contact with the end consumers, in dictating their terms with manufacturers. We wonder how the manufactures are going to deal with this rising power and can both the manufacturers brand and private brands co-exist.
According to a Euromonitor study, the global private label market was estimated to be worth $1,411 billion in 2005, and is growing at 6% per annum. Organized retail currently forms only about 3.59% of total retail in India (graph 1), but its share will leap to 28 percent by 2017, according to a study by Technopak Analysis. And a 2007 study by Technopak says that overall, private labels already form 19 percent of the total market share in India

Why private label?
A private label is an industry jargon for the brands sold only by the retailers exclusively through their stores. Today’s private labels represent essence of stores image. It is no longer about few top brands that store carries. Instead it is about offering exclusive products that define the retailer’s image. It helps retailers to create value for consumers by providing them high or comparable quality products at a price lower than the major brand thus filling in the value gaps and thereby gaining customer’s loyalty.
Also, in the current Indian scenario only 20-30% products are branded. This makes it difficult to fill up the shop space. Private labels can accomplish this and may lead to an increase in the footfalls. But at the same time retailers must ensure that private labels have a strategic positioning rather than merely introducing a product.

ü High development & innovation cost
ü Inventory risk
ü Dependence on manufacturer of private label
ü Decrease reliance on national brands
ü Increased negotiating power
ü Allows differentiation from other retailers
ü Higher profitability and profit margins
ü Flexibility in controlling & managing shelves
ü Helps increase footfalls
ü Increased customer loyalty
ü Full control on pricing

Private labels give the retailers the ability to negotiate better terms with manufacturers. It also gives the retailers an opportunity to earn higher margins as it cuts down on middlemen and other non-value adding costs.

ü Huge market potential
ü Low hanging fruits is gone – enter more challenging categories
ü Manufacturers partnering with local kirana stores.
ü Negatively affect relationship with national brands.

In the apparels category there are players like Tata groups Trent with their Westside brands, Rajan Raheja-promoted Globus Stores pvt ltd with Globus brand, who have developed a business model purely on private labels. Stores like Hypercity Retail have dominated the apparel segment majorly through its private labels. There are others like Shoppers’ Stop which believe in capping the percentage of private labels in apparel in spite of being one of the pioneers in this concept as they believe that customers need choice of at - least 4-5 exclusive brand options which may not be possible with private labels only stores. The success depends on how the store is going to position themselves and create a value perception in the minds of consumers.
As mentioned in the annual report of Shoppers Stop Ltd, the contribution of the private label has increased to 21% of sales from 19% last year and private label sales have increased by 37%. Revenue of Vishal Retail Ltd grew to 15% in FY’08 from 9.8% in FY’07. The contribution of private label is expected to increase from 15% at present to 25% by FY’10 and 50% by FY’13.
The one major hurdle in using private labeled products is the high associated development and innovation cost. Therefore, before venturing in for private label products, retailers should have a clear long term strategy and should market the product to right customer in the right manner. It is intuitively evident that retailers should enter into that product category that has high profit margin, low entry barrier to labeling, and low switching cost to consumer, which may be either monetary or affective.
Factors affecting success of private labels:
The success of private label in a category is a consequence of differentiation between manufacturers brand and their store counterpart. If consumer perceives little difference in value and quality between the two kinds of offerings they have little incentive to choose the typically more expensive offering.
Trust gap between retailers and manufacturers brand, packaging, and advertising intensity of national brands are the three most crucial factors that cause differentiation in the minds of consumer and hence affects the success of private brands.
Private Label Manufacturers:
For products to be considered for private labels, they must have a large sales potential, because retailers are not usually interested in branding low-demand items. In addition, the manufacturer must be able to assure that the product quality is as good as or better than the leading brands.
The type of manufacturing process involved is another important product-related aspect of private labeling. In general, private labels are most appropriate for products that can be manufactured on a tight schedule while maintaining high quality standards. Private label manufacturers must be able to assure their retail clients of reliable, on-time delivery. In addition, they must be flexible enough to ramp up production quickly to meet increases in demand or to change the product's formulation according to the retailer's wishes.
Price is another important component of successful private label manufacturing. The price must compare favorably to competing name brands while also enabling both the manufacturer and the retailer to make money. In general, private label sales provide high volume but tight margins, so price calculations are crucial. Also the private label goods are usually priced 20 percent or more below the market leader. In addition, the retailer generally expects to see a profit margin on private label goods that is 8 to 10 percent higher than it receives with name brands. When calculating the final sales price for private label items, manufacturers must be sure to consider any costs that are incurred especially for the private label line. These may include tailoring the product to meet retailer specifications, or designing special packaging for each retailer.
The third factor in successful private label manufacturing is a strong marketing program. The marketing program for private label goods consists of two parts: contracting with retailers to become their supplier for a certain product, and assisting the retailer in marketing that product to the final consumer.
Overall, the private label manufacturing can present tremendous opportunities for small businesses, as well as significant challenges.

How national brand’s can fight back?
A knee jerk reaction to the competition from private labels is usually to slash prices which might adversely affect the profitability and the image of the brand.
Manufacturers now need to continuously innovate product and come up with value additions regularly and at affordable cost. For example, Gillete – has always came up with new razors, new blades and has upgraded its product regularly, hence the share of private labels is very low for this category.
Manufacturers now need to fight the selective battle. They need to move out from those categories where they are not the market leaders and focus on those brands which the consumer will definitely demand from retailers.
Last but not the least, manufacturers have to respect the strength of retailers and should start partnering with them to create a win-win situation from each other.
Private labels are no more considered ‘cheap’ substitutes for branded brands. That they are cheaper and do not compromises on quality attract a lot of consumers. In the last couple of years, private labels have seen unprecedented growth with the entry of retailers such as Future Group, Shopper’s Stop, Reliance Retail, and Vishal Megamart. Worldwide experience shows that as retailers become more powerful, they have increasingly focused on their own brands at the expense of manufacturer brands. Experts believe that private label brands, which occupy less than 5 per cent of the market in India now, are likely to corner 50 per cent of the market as the retail space opens up and matures. The question is not whether this will happen, but when & how?

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