It has been more than a week and I have not had the opportunity to write the promised posts on my New York trip. As I posted earlier I had the opportunity to have lunch with Brian Sharoff, the president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) and Dane Twining, the Director of Public Relations. We talked about the whole gamut of Private Brand issues; it was casual lunch conversation and not a interview. So I won’t pretend to quote either of them.
When I mentioned to them that I had walked the D’Agostino’s just down the street from their office. Brian spoke of New York City being an exception to retailing norms, simply because of the traffic. Basically New York City stores have so many customers they are able to sell many things that a traditional suburban grocer could not. And that is essentially what I found at D’Agostinos. A small, very compact store in the heart of the city, that was dark and maze like and what would be high prices in the suburbs seemed almost reasonable in the City. In the middle of the afternoon it was busy, lots of people scrambling to pick up milk, or diapers or whatever necessity they could not live without.
For those of you unfamiliar with D’Agostino’s, they are the quintessential New York City grocer, privately held with stores in New York City and suburban Westchester County. With more than 20 stores in Manhattan they are focused on the upscale urban shopper. Their stores range in size from 4,000 to 30,000 square feet.
Their name is a significant brand asset and to their customers an indicator of quality. This is obvious when you discover the D’Agostino brand private label products, although few and far between the products appear to reflect well on the brand. Sauces, salsas, juices, cheese, etc that build upon the premium nature of the D’Agostino brand. If anything they are under assorted here, and are missing opportunities for premium ice creams, gelatos and pasta’s just to name a few.
Their Private Brand offering is filled in with the “Best Yet” Brand from C&S Wholesale Grocers. Old school National Brand Equivalent products that give consumers a choice in a very small format store.
Overall, D’Agostinos is a New York City experience that is truly unique to the city. Suburban moms would find it small and cramped compared to the mega-marts they are accustomed to shopping, but in the city it is the neighborhood grocer with a lot of Private Brand opportunity still untapped.