In a surprise move that demonstrates an increasing emphasis on Private Brands, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has begun what appears to be a test of a new extreme value\basic brand. Price First is featured in a 2-page flyer introducing the brand and it’s stark blue and yellow neo-generic packaging with the headline, “Choose our lowest-priced brand for all your grocery staples. Look for it in your store today.” The products appear to be moving from existing unbranded or control brand SKUs.
Combined with the recent redesign and expansion of Sam’s Choice, if successful, the new brand will dramatically expand the Walmart Private Brand portfolio. With its addition, Walmart will create a very traditional three-tier private label architecture similar to the strategy implemented by most mainstream grocers in the 1980’s. The grocery portfolio is then rounded out by the specialty and category Private Brands: Clear American, Lucky Duck, Oak Leaf, Prima Della, The Bakery and Walmart Deli.
Walmart applied for the trademark in early 2012 and has now extended the application to more than twenty classes. Categories listed include:
- Laundry products, namely, bleaching preparations, anti-static dryer sheets, fabric softeners for domestic use, and stain removers; dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent
Bleaching preparations and other substances for laundry use; cleaning, polishing, scouring and abrasive preparations; soaps; perfumery, essential oils, cosmetics, hair lotions; dentifrices.
- Apparatus for lighting, heating, steam generating, cooking, refrigerating, drying, ventilating, water supply, and sanitary purposes.
- Paper, cardboard and goods made from these materials, not included in other classes; printed matter; bookbinding material; photographs; stationery; adhesives for stationery or household purposes; artists’ materials; paint brushes; typewriters and office requisites (except furniture); instructional and teaching material (except apparatus); plastic materials for packaging (not included in other classes); printers’ type; printing blocks.
- Meat, fish, poultry and game; meat extracts; preserved, frozen, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables; jellies, jams, compotes; eggs, milk and milk products; edible oils and fats
- Coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, rice, tapioca, sago, artificial coffee; flour and preparations made from cereals, bread, pastry and confectionery, frozen ices; honey, treacle; yeast, baking powder; salt, mustard; vinegar, sauces (condiments); spices; ice.
- Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other nonalcoholic drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages.
While I applaud Walmart finally acknowledging the numerous unbranded and control label SKUs in grocery as private label products and creating a brand to tie them together – the 1970’s flashback design is at best disappointing, but at its worst it could set the industry back twenty years.
With Lucky Duck, Prima Della, Marketside, Pure Balance, You Zone, Onn and Backyard Grill, Walmart has demonstrated their ability to create engaging well-positioned and well-designed brands. This simply does not live up to those standards.
The introduction of Price First into the Walmart Private Brand Portfolio raises a few questions.
- How will customers react to a new private label that makes no apologies for low quality products?
- Will customers embrace the neo-generic package design or find it embarrassing?
- Will customers understand the difference between the two descriptively named brands Great Value and Price First?
- How will the introduction of Price First impact the penetration of private label in grocery?
- Is Walmart creating labels or building and managing BRANDS?