Store Brand Sales Grow Amidst Coronavirus Stock-Ups

Consumer fears over COVID-19 help propel double-digit sales increases of store brands, pointing to greater acceptance of retailer brands as the coronavirus crisis evolves.

Store brands posted double-digit sales increases across U.S. supermarkets, discounters, and drug stores, as shoppers stocked up on products during the first stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
Store brands posted double-digit sales increases across U.S. supermarkets, discounters, and drug stores, as shoppers stocked up on products during the first stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Store brands posted double-digit sales increases across U.S. supermarkets, discounters, and drug stores, as shoppers stocked up on products during the first stages of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to information provided to the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) by Nielsen, which reports that first quarter dollar sales of private-label products across all retail outlets compared to the year before climbed nearly 15% during the first quarter, up $4.9 billion. Unit volume increased nearly 13%, representing a gain of around 1.5 billion products sold. Total dollar sales of store brands in the first quarter were $38.4 billion, and units were 13.2 billion.

According to Nielsen, during the first quarter, store brands more than held their own against the national brands. Private label gained about one-third more in both dollar and unit sales than national brands. In all U.S. retail outlets, store brands grew 14.6% in dollar volume and 12.8% in unit volume, compared to gains of 11.5% in dollars and 9.2% in units for national brands.

Private-label manufacturers, meanwhile, are making some significant operational changes to cope with the rising demand, says PLMA. In certain categories, such as paper goods, over-the-counter medicines, and hand sanitizers, factories are operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Adds PLMA, some companies are creating fair-share allocations for high-demand products, while many are simplifying SKU offerings, extending lead times to build inventories, and retooling to be more efficient for growing e-commerce business.

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Among the retail channels, the strongest gains for store brands occurred in mass, which consists of mass merchandisers, club, and dollar stores. Store brands gained 16.6% in dollar sales and 16.5% in unit sales compared to the same quarter in 2019. That expansion surpassed national brands, which advanced 10.1% in dollars and 7.3% in units. As a result, store brands’ market shares increased by 1.2 points in dollars to 21.7% and 1.5 points in units to 25.8%, as compared to the same quarter a year ago.

In supermarkets, store brands also increased, up to 12.7% in dollar volume and 9.7% in unit volume. National brands did slightly better, up 15% in dollars and up 11.4% in units. Store brands’ market shares were unchanged for the quarter, at 18% of dollars and 22.3% of units.

In drug stores, where sales of all brands have had a rough going the past few years, store brands did quite well. Dollar sales were up 13%, and unit sales were ahead 12.4%, both substantially better than national brands, which were up 7% and 1%, respectively. When compared to the first quarter of 2019, store brands’ share moved up about one full point to 17% of dollars and to 15.9% of  units.

Says PLMA President Brian Sharoff, “There’s no doubt that shopper behavior was highly influenced by consumer fears. Nonetheless, the statistics point to greater acceptance of retailer brands as the coronavirus crisis evolves.”

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