The following is the second in a series of articles that I wrote as Retail Wire’s delegate to the IIR Private Brand Movement conference. (You’ll find a link to my roundup of comments from select Retail Wire Brain Trust panelists at the end.)
At last week's Private Brand Movement conference, Mary Rachide, Family Dollar's DVP of Private Brands, discussed the challenges of developing private brands. Two of the challenges identified were the need for internal alignment, most specifically between merchandising and branding, as well as ensuring that internal stake-holders are on board and moving in the same direction.
"Structure determines performance," stated Ms. Rachide.
The platform for the structure is a "clean baseline" of shared data. Everyone must first agree on a starting point. From there, "finding and fostering" the champions across the organization, and co-creating metrics and schedules encourages accountability and buy-in. She also emphasized the need to clearly articulate timelines that are "synched with the merchandising calendar," since everything takes longer than you think and, if you wait until the end, "it will become everyone's last priority."
Ms. Rachide acknowledged that a "huge education" has had to take place in Family Dollar's merchant organization after years of "managing their own house." However, the new framework has been so well-received that the merchants have begun to call her in advance to ask what the measurements will be for upcoming programs.
Family Dollar has also realigned the organization to encourage collaboration and problem-solving, and has established clear roles and responsibilities for the private brand buying, sourcing and marketing teams. Before, brand and merchandising reported to the CEO, which discouraged either group from sharing their challenges. Now, although private brand and merchandising are still separate entities, they both report to the chief merchant. This encourages them to work out any disagreements and to "lift the rug" by openly sharing what works and what doesn't. When something does work, Ms. Rachide said, it is important to openly acknowledge it and to leverage success stories in order to "build momentum" internally.
The company has also begun to conduct corporate "Taste of Family Dollar" luncheon events, in which Family Dollar brands are showcased and served to team members. By encouraging brand engagement and interaction among team members, the company is reinforcing the importance of, and personal connection to, its brands.
Take it from me, dollar stores are on everyone’s radar as small-urban-local becomes the new big box. When I asked Mary if Family Dollar’s positioning would change now that the big box's are on a diet and heading to the ‘hoods, she confidently stated that the other guys don’t have “small box figured out” as a “general store retail concept” to the degree that FD does. Obviously not or they would already be there, right? Family Dollar no doubt knows that all of that can change in the blink of an eye. Private brand platforms aren't just productive, they're preemptive.