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. Nielsen 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.
Store brands more than held their own against the national brands. During the quarter, private label gained about one third more in both dollar and unit sales than national brands, according to data provided to the Private Label Manufacturers Association by Nielsen. 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. 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. 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.
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 +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 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.
PLMA President Brian Sharoff said “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.”