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Not So Private Label

If not watched closely, private label products can end up in the wrong hands.


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Supermarket private label products can sometimes be found in other classes of trade.

Richard Turcsik

Last weekend I was shopping in the Boscov’s department store in the Woodbridge Center Mall in Woodbridge, N.J. For those of you who have never been in a Boscov’s it is a really cool store – a throwback to the way department stores used to be, with well-stocked aisles featuring a very wide assortment of merchandise, including clothing for the entire family, furniture, curtains, garden supplies and even a candy department where the store makes its own fudge and honey-roasted peanuts.

Everything is sold at reasonable prices – plus Boscov’s offers free giftwrapping. It is the type of store where you walk in and walk out with a bag saying to yourself, “I didn’t know I needed this,” like I did with my purchase of a baking soda tray. Using suction cups, it adheres to the out-of-the-way bottom of a refrigerator shelf and holds baking soda, eliminating (according to its packaging) the risk of knocking over a box of baking soda sitting on top of the refrigerator shelf, as well as having to view that unsightly box. And it was only $1.29. Such a deal!

I picked it up in the Auditorium. That’s the large room on Boscov’s second floor overflowing with bargains. I assume in the store’s original location the Auditorium was used for things like fashion shows; in the Woodbridge store, it was housing Boscov’s “Indoor Tent Sale.” Truth be told, most of the Indoor Tent Sale items can be found out on the main floor in their respective departments, but as I walked down the Auditorium’s four aisles I was taken aback by one particular shelf set.

It was filled with private label items. What first caught my eye was a facing of America’s Choice tin foil. Being in “the biz,” I know that America’s Choice was the house brand of the now defunct A&P, and I figured a Boscov’s buyer must have gotten a deal on it at an auction somewhere. In fact, a few months ago I was in the Kmart in Penn Station where there was a large display of America’s Choice straws and toothpicks being featured as some sort of Blue Light Special.

It was after looking at the America’s Choice tin foil that I saw the sign for the Winn-Dixie Serving Set of disposable cutlery. It was on sale for 99-cents (ticketed $2.99). While A&P is out of business (except for a chain of liquor stores still bearing their name), I know that Winn-Dixie is alive and well. And so is Safeway. Boscov’s was also featuring Safeway Signature Home private label plastic cutlery in several colors. While Safeway does not operate in New Jersey, their sister company Acme Markets does, and Acme has been phasing in the Safeway house brands, such as Lucerne dairy products.

7-Eleven is a major presence in New Jersey too. And Boscov’s was selling 7-Eleven dinner napkins for 79-cents a pack. Truth be told, I did not even know 7-Eleven offered private label dinner napkins. One thing I do know. If you are buying them in a 7-Eleven they are probably a heck of a lot more than 79-cents.

The moral here is that retailers need to keep track of their private label. It is one thing to be selling a house brand from a defunct chain at a deep discount, but retailers should check and be sure that they are not being undercut on private label products that are still likely being sold in their stores.                    

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