Walmart is bringing back a slew of brands in health and beauty, cereal, pet, soda and laundry that it had removed from shelves last year, after finding that shoppers were turning to competitors for a wider selection of merchandise. The retailer apparently pruned brands too heavily in its effort to streamline and enhance the shoppability of its stores.
In short, shopper expectations weren't being met. And that's an interesting point for those who said retailers' product assortment strategies would give store brands the defacto presence in categories seeing the cuts. Instead, what Walmart's brand reinstatement proves is that, as far as shoppers are concerned, there will always be a need for national brands. And that brands and retailers have a shared stake in delivering a satisfying shopper experience.
Of course, this oversimplifies things. Weaker brands will certainly continue to feel pressures. But it's not an issue of having deep pockets. Our next issue, profiling five Brands to Watch, is a testament to the idea that small brands can outcompete larger brands, and even store brands, to earn a spot on retail shelves. They do it, though, by first winning the hearts of consumers.
And, while that's not a new message for brands, it's one that's increasingly, and sometimes painfully, becoming crystal clear. No matter how retailers manage their stores, or how the retail landscape changes, shoppers will continue to be the guide on how it all plays out.