MANUFACTURER AND RETAILER BRANDS IN FOOD RETAIL ASSORTMENTS Notes from a shopping trip across Europe
Food retailers present consumers with a complex market offering. They offer consumers an assortment of products sourced from numerous suppliers, along with various services within a retailer-controlled environment (Burt & Sparks 2002). Food retailers aim to offer an assortment of products and perform a variety of activities and services, which provide added value in the eyes of consumers (Burt 2000). In this connection, branding is becoming increasingly important, as food retailers develop their own brands within and across product categories. Many retailers are attempting to cultivate an overall brand identity in order to protect and identify their market offering (Burt & Sparks 2002). The assortment of products food retailers offer typically includes manufacturer brands, re-tailer brands and generic or unbranded products. In recent years, increasing competition in food retailing has made food retailers focus on whether they offer the "right" assort-ment to consumers. Under headings such as efficient consumer response (ECR) and cate-gory management (CM), retailers have been readjusting their assortments, delisting many brands that were deemed to be under-performing and including retailer branded products in an attempt to differentiate themselves by offering goods only available in their stores. Despite the importance of branding to retailers, the branding literature has focused on how manufacturers develop and maintain strong brands. Relatively little work has been done in the area of retail brands and even less about the interaction between retailer brands and manufacturer brands. In contrast, this paper develops a concept of retailer brand architecture, which captures that retailers typically offer an assortment of manu-facturer brands, retailer brands and generic products. In doing so we adapt the concept of brand architecture to a retail context. The concept of 'brand architecture', as originally developed by (Aaker & Joachimsthaler 2002), describes how the different brands used to market a range of products from the same manufacturer are related. The concept of brand architecture is based on the assumption that brands are not evaluated in isolation, but are placed in and evaluated within a broader context. This assumption is also important in a retail context. Consumers do not look at an isolated product or brand on the shelf. Their evaluation of the individual brand depends on the context; for instance, what other products are offered in the product category and in the retail outlet, previous experiences with the product or other products from the same manufacturer, as well as previous experiences with the retailer in question. In this paper, we take the concept of brand architecture and apply it to food retailers, con-ceptualising the brand architectures of food retailers as the portfolio of brands (gene-ric, retailer and manufacturer brands), which are included in the assortment of a retail concept (ie, a retail chain). In addition to developing a concept of 'retailer brand archi-tecture', we use this concept to investigate the brand architecture of a number of European food retailers in order to determine similarities and differences in brand architecture strategies. The paper is structured as follows: firstly, the concept of brand archi-tecture is presented. Secondly, the concept of brand architecture is applied to a retail setting and a number of other concepts important for understanding the brand architecture strategies of food retailers are introduced and discussed. Thirdly, the methodology used to investigate the brand architectures of European food retailers is discussed. Then, the findings from a shopping trip across Europe are presented. Finally, a discussion of the findings is provided and it is briefly considered how the findings of this study were used as input for a study of consumer perceptions of the brand architectures of food retailers. This subsequent study investigated whether consumers notice differences between the brand architectures of food retailers and how these are evaluated
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