Top Trajectory: Retail's Private Brand Palooza

My proprietary Retail Trajectories are coordinates that I constantly create, curate and track across categories, business models, borders and touch points. They drive the strategies I develop for my clients and underpin the presentations I give around the world. Here I showcase one of my hottest Retail Trajectories, along with my between-the-eyes takes on what it all means to you, regardless of the role you play in this exploding world of retail.



These days, “buy, build or bridge?” is retail’s biggest question and now, the “building” is busting out beyond brick and mortar. The private brand-building boom that I’ve been forecasting for a while is cranking up big time.


  • With price comparisons just a click away, private brands are re-emerging as a differentiating power play.

  • Thanks to direct-to-consumer forays and the proliferation of online marketplaces, national brands are becoming ubiquitous (and now, they often compete with retailers).

  • As wholesale distribution dries up, more brand marketers are clamoring to create brands specifically for E/retailers (even if they don’t cop to it).

  • Retailers’ ownership of digital platforms gives more punch (and presence) to their portfolios.

  • When it comes to signaling value, private brands are no longer limited to side-by-side comparisons. The days of marketing-less margin-builders are over.


Both Walmart and Target have recently replaced or updated a slew of legacy proprietary and private brands. To keep from getting ghosted by its deal-seeking guests, Target kept going with its launch of Smartly. Now, Walmart's taking on hot home competitors and Millennial-friendly niche players with Allswell and MoDRN. After years of crow-barring more (and more) national brands into its stores, J.C. Penney is back in the brand-building biz with Peyton & Parker. On the newfound-frenemy front, Walgreens is testing out shop-in-shops that will have Kroger private brands popping up in select stores...And then there's Amazon, cranking everything up to eleven again as it single-handedly ushers in the secret brand movement.


  • Brand Marketers: Private brands are not the enemy. I repeat. Private brands are not the enemy! It pays to position as a complement to retailers' portfolios, not as a competitor to them.

  • Retailers: How does your platform support your portfolio? Does secret branding make sense?

  • Solution Providers: How do your solutions boost the impact, awareness, profitability or sustainability of retailers' private brands?

Carol Spieckerman