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Some retailers experiment with reducing national-brand selection

Though some axed products have been restored, it’s clear that in the new world of retailing, national brands will have to earn their place as sales-generators.

If you’re a national brand that wants to survive, you need to be either one of two things. You either have to be a first- or second-tier brand, or otherwise distinctive enough that your brand can regularly pull destination shoppers into a retailer’s store and create additional “ring” at checkout.

Failing these two requirements, your brand just might be eliminated from a retailer’s shelves. This is becoming the case for products from canned vegetables to juice to aspirin. The imperative for solid national brands that can get shoppers into stores is laid out in an article on Yahoo! Finance, summed up by this comment from Susan Reda, editor of STORES magazine, published by the National Retail Federation: “It’s the manufacturer that has more to lose, and if you’re not a tier-one or tier-two company, you’re in a dicey state.”

Branding experts have been preaching for the past decade or so against introducing “me too” products in copycat packages that fail to deliver any sort of distinction among competitors, a meaningful branding message, or value that compels shoppers to pick up the package.

Now, Wal-Mart, SuperValu and CVS Caremark are three retailers that have begun to pare their selection of SKUs to create more space for their own increasingly distinctive brands, although Walmart recently has returned some of the axed national brands to its shelves after further analysis of storewide slumping sales. Many retailers still depend on national brands for end-aisle displays, but it’s becoming clearer that some brands will have to explore other marketing options in addition to traditional store-shelf space. One development to watch is Procter & Gamble’s “online learning lab” eStore commerce site.

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