I was recently asked to contribute to a feature in Convenience Store magazine about how a growing number of retailers in the sector are creating their own label brands and delivering a real point of difference and big profit opportunities. In the article
https://www.conveniencestore.co.uk/your-business/retailer-brands-make-your-mark/596052.article I provided some important advice and top tips for any retailer who is looking to develop and launch a brand for themselves. For a full and extended list of the top 10 steps you need to follow and how to get you brand launch right you can read them here in this blog.
1. IDENTIFY THE CONSUMER NEED
Spend time to fully research and understand the consumer need your brand will meet. You may already have a spark of an idea from what you’ve seen your customers buying or a currently unmet need. Have you seen something that you’ve thought, I could create and sell a product that’s much better? Think about what’s trendy and in demand right now in your store. Perhaps you can introduce a new healthier brand or a twist on an existing product. Maybe there’s an opening for a more indulgent brand range that you think could sell well. You might think there is an opportunity to trade customers up into a more premium product or maybe based on your shopper demographics you think you need a more affordable and everyday version of a more expensive product? The opportunities are endless and improved margins can be made from creating and branding something that you can call your own. But you need to do your research first. Retailers who fail to do their research and launch head-first into bringing out a new brand without really understanding their customers’ needs will sadly fail.
2. HAVE A REAL POINT OF DIFFERENCE
Once you’ve identified the need and considered the space that your brand and product range will play in – you next need to consider what your real point of difference is. How is your brand going to be different and better to what is currently out there? What will make your shoppers buy your brand over an established one? For example, will your product be locally sourced and use local ingredients? Ask yourself, is this something that is going to be popular in my store? Creating and honing a real USP for your brand will encourage consumers to put yours in their basket over an existing brand. It’s all about choice at the end of the day and if you can see a gap in the market and your offering, then go for it. There’s good money to be made!
3. TASTE IS EVERYTHING!
Make sure the products you are selling under your new brand are the best they can be. Taste is everything and the reputation of your brand hangs upon it. Ask yourself will people love the products when they try them? Do these products stand up to the quality and integrity you want your brand to represent? Do as much research as possible about the brand and how it looks before you launch. Plus, you need to do lots of consumer testing of the products in your brand range long before they launch in store. This will ensure you give your brand and product range the best chance of success.
Working with an existing own label producer or local manufacturer is a good route to take. Together you can create a product or hone an existing recipe that you can then brand, package and sell as your own. Perhaps there’s a local artisan baker or a vineyard or a sausage producer nearby that you’d like to collaborate with. Working with a trusted producer will enable you to create something bespoke and exciting. It will also give you additional trust, confidence and support in terms of how the products are manufactured.
If you, a friend or family member is a budding baker, jam maker or chocolatier and you are considering branding and then selling the product in your store, then that has many more complexities and responsibilities. Working with a development chef or recipe development agency like Food Innovation Solutions will help you take the necessary steps to get things right and ensure you are compliant when it comes to food safety and your responsibilities as a brand owner and retailer.
Having your own brand comes with plenty of challenges of course but it does present you with much bigger profit opportunities too as you are cutting out the middlemen.
4. DESIGN A BRAND THAT REALLY RESONATES
Designing the right brand needs careful consideration but it doesn’t have to cost the earth either. There’s no point in sourcing the best possible and great tasting product if the branding doesn’t match. The product and brand need to work harmoniously together so the customer really understands what they are buying into. Think about brands that other retailers you admire have created like James Brundle of Eat 17, Harris Aslam of Eros Retail with their own fizzy slush brand Skwisheee and of course Donna Mullan from Mullans Spar in Armagh who has launched chilled ready meals and food to go solutions. These are all excellent examples to draw inspiration from.
You may be considering a food to go solution and introducing a piece of equipment like a slush machine, hot cabinet or a soft serve ice cream machine this summer. You might be asking yourself if you could brand this in a way that makes it unique to you and your store and enables you to charge a premium. It’s always a question of balancing what a nationally recognised brand brings to your store in terms of its huge brand awareness and appeal, versus creating and branding a product of your own which gives you greater margins and ownership. I’d certainly argue there is room for both in convenience stores. You just need to pick your battles and make sure you have a great quality product for your brand that’s going to work hard for you and give you the returns to make the time and effort worthwhile.
Working with a retail branding agency like Jellybean Creative Solutions can help you design and trademark the right brand and positioning for your product that works for you and importantly works for your shoppers in store.
5. PACKAGING IS KEY
Making sure your product is packaged in the right way is so important. A brand that stands out on shelf and catches the shopper’s eye is critical, otherwise it just isn’t going to sell. As we are all acutely aware, ensuring your new product uses sustainable packaging has almost become mandatory for anyone launching a new product to market today. There are plenty of packaging partners or off-the-shelf solutions that you can consider, ensuring you are doing right by the environment and that your shoppers are happy to buy into your product. Don’t just go for the cheapest option, you need to get it right.
6. SET THE RIGHT PRICE POINT
You know your customers better than anyone else. You know what price points work and what customers are prepared to pay for certain types of products. Make sure you spend time to really consider the selling price and profit margin you can realistically achieve. Like all products there may be an everyday selling price but also some promotional prices you want to introduce. If you are introducing a premium product range, then you have more room for manoeuvre and people are certainly prepared to pay for a high-quality premium product that tastes great. You need to offer something that’s different to their usual brand.
7. TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!
It will come as no surprise to most of you that when you are trying to launch and establish a new brand in your store, sampling makes a big difference. Whether it’s a new brand from a major supplier or a new line you’ve introduced from a local supplier, I am sure you’ve already used sampling effectively to get shoppers to try before they buy. It’s simple, sampling works. Human nature means if we try something for free and we like it, then we are more likely to go on and buy it. So, when it comes to launching your own brand you will want to make sure as many people as possible get to try it. Tasting samples given out in store, as part of a launch event or handed out on the street, is going to be extremely important. It shows shoppers how proud you are of your new brand and gets them to try it. If they love it, which I am sure they will after all the hard work you’ve put into it, they will want to go and buy it. Then the trick is to get them to keep buying it and telling all their friends and family to go and buy it too.
8. MARKETING MAKES A BRAND GREAT
Once you’ve created your brand you will be desperate and excited to get it on sale and flying off the shelves. But before you do, you need to make sure you have a great marketing plan in place. The clear advantage you have to make this brand a success in your store is that it’s your store. You know this brand better than anyone else and you already know exactly what works when it comes to establishing new brands. Make sure you get the basics right in terms of location, layout, signage and point of sale. Ensure your team are well briefed and ready to sell the product to customers. For launch you will need to do some sampling, for sure. Use your social media channels to let customers know that you have an exciting new brand launching. Remember to continue promoting the brand regularly on social media thereafter too. Consider telling the local press and trade press about your exciting new brand and how it was created – a simple press release will do the trick and get them interested.
Like all good brands, promotional activities and deals are important too. So, it’s up to you to create the promotions and ongoing excitement around your brand. Get your creative juices flowing.
Don’t fall into the trap of over promoting your brand to the detriment of everything your store is famed for, though. Strike the right balance between marketing your new brand and doing all the other important communications you need to get your shoppers coming into store each day.
Above all else you need to have lots of fun with your brand and marketing. It’s your baby and success is in your hands.
9. TEST AND LEARN TO GET IT RIGHT
The truth is, not everyone gets it right first time. All big brands have their successes and failures when it comes to NPD. Brands need to be refined and tweaked over time before they completely nail it. If you’ve followed these tips then you will be in a good place to realise big profit opportunities, but don’t be afraid to listen to customer feedback and make tweaks and adjustments to get it perfect. Your shoppers will tell you if it’s working simply by whether they are putting your brand in their baskets and money in your till. If things stall or certain products in your brand’s range don’t sell, then change things. When you launch your own brand, you are no longer just a retailer, you are a brand manager and a brand marketer at the same time. You need to make sure you dedicate time to think about your brand and how it can be improved and evolved. Test and learn as you go, and you can create a brand that will be around for a long time to come. Who knows, it might even become a fully-fledged brand that other retailers will stock and sell in their convenience stores too? Now that really would be something to shout about!
10. BE AWARE OF FUTURE TRENDS & LEGISLATION
If you are preparing and selling food in-store then you must comply with all food safety regulations. If you don’t then you mustn’t prepare and serve food in store. All premises must be registered with their local authority and have a Food Safety Hygiene rating. Also, you need to ensure all the necessary Food Safety training for all employees relevant to their role in the business is carried out.
Check out the Food Standards Agency website for all matters relating to hygiene, safer food better business and allergens.
The UK government has brought forward new ingredients labelling legislation, known as ‘Natasha’s Law’, which means that retailers selling pre-packed food for direct sale will have to follow stricter rules on labelling by summer 2021. Under current regulations, pre-packed food items such as ready meals, sandwiches or salads which are made by staff on site are not required to display allergen information on packs. But under the reforms coming into force across England and Northern Ireland, food outlets including convenience stores must include full ingredient listings on all food packaged on the same premises in which they are sold. The rules do not apply to items made to order in front of the consumer, however, such as a sub or wrap filled with ingredients of the shopper’s choosing.
As a brand owner you and whomever is co-producing or co-packing your product have certain legal obligations when it comes to production, packaging, labelling, allergens and health and safety. If you are working with a reputable manufacturer then those guidelines will be followed to the letter and they can provide lots of guidance and support.
As ever keep reading the trade press for the latest information and keep up to speed with updates about legislation that may require you to change the way you package and promote your brand. If in doubt, seek advice from the experts and from other retailers who are always happy to help and share their experiences.
Continue to keep abreast of consumer trends and exciting new developments in food and drink that will enable you to tap into the next hottest thing.
I hope this advice helps motivate and inspire you to take the next step and create your own brand. I look forward to hearing about your success and trying your brand for myself in the not too distant future. Good luck.
Some useful resources and contacts:
Food Standards Authority – https://www.food.gov.uk/
Food Innovation Solutions – https://foodinnovationsolutions.com/about/
Jellybean Creative Solutions – https://www.jellybeancreative.co.uk/
Association of Convenience Stores – https://www.acs.org.uk/