No matter how a retail business is marketed, it is the products on the shelves which show shoppers what the business stands for. It is on the shelves that the business is pitched as being about quality and value or being about price.
The products retailers choose to put on their shelves define their business and often shoppers will not say what they take away about a business from the products it stocks.
Retail businesses of all sizes these days appear to be engaging in house (generic) brand strategies. This is where they give preference to a generic product over a national brand. While this approach appears to work in large national supermarket chains and some other national retailers, it can be problematic for independent retailers.
A national brand is better than a house brand in many ways:
National brands advertise widely.
National brands educate consumers about quality.
National brands have community connections and support charities.
National brands are more likely to offer co-op funding to retailers who advertise the brands locally.
Consumers know more about national brands than generic or house brands.
Too often, generic branded products are cheaper because quality has been cut.
National brands support retailers in many ways, some far more valuable than better margin on one product. A retailer attaching themselves to several key segment leading brands can draw to their business the feelings and values associated with these brands.
House brands are almost always about price and to some shoppers that makes them about quality. Retail businesses operating in the price space would be wise to embrace a house brand strategy since they reinforce the focus on price over quality, and other value propositions of such a business.
Independent retail businesses which focus on quality and value are more likely to struggle with house brands as they will clash with the principles of the business. Unfortunately, some will not see this until the products have confused some customers and turned them away from the business.
The choice between a national brand and a house or generic brand of product is really a choice about the kind of business you wish to operate. Both have their place but both speak volumes for the type of consumer you want to attract.
Anyone can compete on price, all it takes is will. Competing on quality and value takes commitment and focus. It is vitally important that the products selected for a quality and value focused business reflect these principles.
If going with a house brand is a real consideration for your business, look around at others, make yourself aware of what they offer. Think carefully about whether a brand based strategy of a house brand strategy is better for your business.