Everything works. Until it doesn’t.

Jim Cusson - Theory HouseThis guest post comes from Jim Cusson, president of Theory House.

Everything works. Until it doesn’t

Basic. Mid-tier. NBE. Premium. These are common descriptors for the traditional merchandising roles Private Brands play (I’d argue that we should focus on meeting shopper’s needs versus merchandising strategies – but that’s fodder for an entirely different post). Sometimes brands are cast in these roles with careful thought and consideration. And other times they gravitate to these price positions over time as other, newer brands surround them. This approach works just fine – until it doesn’t.

In the agency world I live in I often tell my team that when we’re working with an easy-to-please client, we risk being lulled into a sense that everything is just fine and we’re firing on all cylinders. It’s often the adversity that comes from working with a really difficult client that makes us stronger.

The same is probably true for your Private Brand portfolio. On the surface, everything may appear to be working just fine. But over time your once vibrant Private Brand portfolio ages, new competitive threats arise, your customers evolve, and cracks and blemishes in your portfolio begin to surface. When this happens, I suggest you heartily embrace it as an opportunity to grow stronger.

We’re currently engaged with a specialty retailer that is working through a portfolio rationalization as a result of a merger. Are you jealous of them? Maybe you should be. What a liberating opportunity they have to examine the role and effectiveness of every single brand in the portfolio. Is it hard work? You bet. But I have every confidence that the revised portfolio will be comprised of brands that are genuinely meeting customer’s needs and solving business problems – not just jockeying for position against national brands.



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Christopher Durham

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.