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Mon 1 Aug 2005 04:00 AM

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Spinneys expands Home Choice

THE development of supermarket private labels in the region is continuing at a rapid pace, and nowhere is this more evident than in the growth of Spinneys’ Home Choice brand.

THE development of supermarket private labels in the region is continuing at a rapid pace, and nowhere is this more evident than in the growth of Spinneys’ Home Choice brand.

From its humble beginnings spanning a handful of basic products like water, coffee, toilet roll and disinfectant, the label has been steadily infiltrating the aisles at Spinneys to cover an ever-increasing range of goods.

In recent months, Spinneys has added 250ml water cups, fresh organic chicken, iodised salt and red and white vinegar to the Home Choice range. The chain confirmed that more additions are on the way.

“Spinneys will be expanding the range, though we cannot disclose the exact details at present,” said Warwick Smith, marketing manager at Spinneys. Smith has previously commented that the store plans to incorporate the label into every product category on the shelves. “We are not trying to become a discount store, we will still offer the very highest quality produce. Home Choice is merely another weapon to ensure that we remain the premium food retailer in the GCC,” he said.

What is certain is that Home Choice is being positioned as Spinneys’ trump card. It is the brand that can compete with hypermarkets on price, while consumers can still enjoy the superior shopping environment of a Spinneys store. “Our quality is what sets us apart from our competitors. Home Choice just limits the competition’s ability to have an advantage over us,” Smith said. “If the freshest, highest quality grocery products are available at your local Spinneys and you know the long life section is competitively priced, then less and less people will have reason to visit the competition.”

According to a regional industry analyst, the future of private labels very much depends on their ability to be distinctive, yet there appear to be similarities between Home Choice packaging and that of leading brands.

Most striking, perhaps, is a resemblance between Home Choice Fine Quality Tea and Unilever’s Lipton Yellow Label brand. Both arrive in bright red and yellow packaging. Home Choice, however, is considerably cheaper.

“The only way an own label brand can be a success is if it markets itself as a distinct product that can only be found at its parent supermarket,” said Hubert Lobo, retail services manager at analyst AC Nielsen.

“If it tries to imitate other brands it will fail. I would not pay half the price for a product thinking I’m getting a Lipton equivalent. I would rather buy a product on the strength of Home Choice and the strength of Spinneys,” he added.

When asked to comment on the likeness, Spinneys insisted that it was mere coincidence. “It was certainly not intentional. Consumers were uncertain about whether to try the product, until we had live samplings in our stores. Once people tasted it, sales began to increase,” Smith remarked.

The ultimate question is whether or not Home Choice has prospered at the expense of branded products. “It is impossible to generalise whether secondary brands have been affected more than leading ones,” said Smith. “More competition means more pressure for all. Brands can no longer dictate exorbitant prices to the consumer, so consumers can chose based on preference and a narrower price range,” he added.

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