Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Private Label Strategy - Part III

The Indian Private Label Story

In the Indian context the private label play is slightly different from how international players do it. Internationally, the product team is extensively involved in the product development and has a say in each component and feature of the private label product. Many a time the representative of the retailer is a regular visitor or even stationed there to monitor the production.

This is possible because of the enormous volumes that this is made possible by the large number of stores that international retailers have. These volumes are good enough for even larger manufacturing units to dedicate their entire production for a few months or even dedicate one production line permanently.

However, Indian Retail has not yet reached that stage and it would take time. So, how does private label work in India?

It is largely done as a pricing play. This means that existing products being manufactured are chosen and packaging is changed to reflect the store brand. In certain cases the features or composition is tweaked marginally to create a differentiation.

The other peculiarity with regards to Indian Retail is the high percentage of basic grocery sales. As much as 25% – 30% of a family’s monthly shopping consists of staples. Other than Oil, Masala, Salt and Atta, there are no major brands in most other grocery products. So by default every retailer starts off with a private label contribution of anywhere in the region of 20% - 25%. Then comes the other private label products which would average 10% to 15% nowadays, barring exceptions.

The exceptions are stores which have only store brands in their range and have adopted it as a business strategy. Internationally Marks & Spencer’s have done this and in India, Westside does this successfully. If successful the upside to this approach is enormous starting from a shorter cycle time to break even due to higher margins. The downside is that this becomes an all or nothing game.

Lastly, Private Label or Store Brands are an undeniable part of any retailer’s life. Scale enables it and it enables scale and that’s the chicken and egg part of the story


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