Walgreens: Developing a New Private Brand Strategy…and Executing It.

This is the first in a series of podcasts leading up to the 2010 Private Brand Movement Conference in Chicago. The conference will be held September 27-29, 2010 at boutique riverfront hotel the Hotel Sax.

The following is the transcript from the interview with Moe Alkemade, DVP-GMM Private Brands of Walgreens.

Hello and welcome to our Private Brand Movement 2010 podcast series. I’m Melissa Sundaram, Online Producer for the event and this year we’ve invited a few of our speakers to chat with us before we meet in Chicago.  We do hope that you enjoy our series and that you’ll join us at this year’s event.  We’ll be in Chicago at the Hotel Sax from September 27-29, 2010. Visit www.privatebrandmovement.com for more information.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Moe Alkemade, DVP-GMM Private Brands, Walgreens.  He will be presenting, “Developing a New Private Brand Strategy…and Executing It.”

Moe, can you tell us a bit about your session and what people can get out of it by attending? Also, why do you feel this conversation is important this year?
Moe: The topic that I’m talking about is change and basically changing direction in an organization. And basically talking about private brand. Why that is important is that I think most retailers are going through the same thing in the sense of putting private brand into a strategy and trying to develop that strategy and pushing that through the organization. What my learnings have been, both from a retail and a CPG perspective, is that there is a good way and a bad way of doing that. There are some pitfalls. What I really want to talk about is my experience on both sides of the desk and how to do it right and some of the pitfalls on how not to do it right. I think people will get something out of that.

Now, your presentation also discusses making an emphasis on “correct” strategy, not necessarily a new strategy. Could you give us an example of how Walgreens has used this in their work?
Moe: It’s early on. So, the emphasis on all of this, and whenever you are making change it’s about getting alignment and getting focus and discipline. Usually what happens when it goes well is that the organization has put a lot of time and energy behind getting this strategy right and then giving focus to the organization. What I mean by that is when you have the strategy right, it is very simple to then prioritize what people do and not do in the sense of if it matches to what the strategy is, you go and do it. If it does not, then you don’t. Usually, one of the major pitfalls is if you don’t have this clear strategy, you end up doing a lot of additional work or things that really don’t fit and you end up wasting a lot of time and energy on things that really don’t make any sense to where you are going.

Where do you see private brands going in the next five to ten years?
Moe: As it relates to the industry or just in general, if you look at Europe and you look at Canada or even Asia, I think you are going to see continued growth. I think that people realize that private label or private brand is no longer a cheap substitute. It is an equal substitute at a value. I think retailers are going to push that a lot more and I think CPG companies are going to have to get really smart about how they play in that new paradigm. I believe you are going to see continued growth. I think you are going to see us catch up to Canada and get into higher percentages than where we are right now.

What aspects of the event are you most looking forward to? Networking activities? Chatting with fellow speakers? Attending other sessions? Maybe a few keynotes?
Moe: I’ve never been to one of these before, so I think it’s just – I’m curious to see what the program is all about. I know a couple of the other speakers. I’ve actually worked with a few of them. So, it will be interesting to hear what they have to say. I’m just overall curious about your event.

Are you excited about anything in particular?
Moe: Yeah, and I don’t know if I’m excited about anything. I’m interested in seeing who attends and who some of the other speakers are and what some of the subjects are. That is what interests me.

Again, our thanks to Moe Alkemade for participating in this year’s Private Brand Movement podcast series. We look forward to meeting him and you at the event.

Listen to the podcast.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.