Wal-Mart revamping Great Value

CHICAGO Mon Mar 16, 2009 6:35pm EDT

Wal-Mart Senior Vice President, head of private brands, Andrea Thomas speaks during the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago March 16, 2009. REUTERS/John Gress

Wal-Mart Senior Vice President, head of private brands, Andrea Thomas speaks during the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago March 16, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

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Mon, Mar 16 2009

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) is relaunching its Great Value private brand with more than 80 new products and distinctive packaging as the world's largest retailer looks to win business from increasingly price-conscious shoppers.

Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of private brands for Wal-Mart, told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago on Monday that the relaunch of Great Value, the country's largest food brand in both sales and volume, includes new items such as double-stuffed sandwich cookies, frozen pizza and organic cage-free eggs.

Wal-Mart has also changed formulas for 750 products under the brand, which includes thousands of products across more than 100 food, beverage and household product categories.

Great Value was first introduced in 1993, and Thomas said the packaging is being updated to feature pictures on a white background, making it easier to spot the brand on its shelves.

The new packaging will also give the line a consistent appearance across the store.

"The packaging is simple, it's clearer and it's much easier to find," Thomas said. "We've created a package with better pictures on a white background so it really pops off of the shelf, and that makes it easier to find when they go aisle to aisle on their shopping trips."

Wal-Mart has said that its private brands are becoming more important as consumers look for ways to stretch limited budgets amid the recession.

As shoppers run out of money in between paychecks, they are trading down to buy cheaper private brand products instead of national brands, Wal-Mart said.

Thomas said the gap, on average, between the price of a national brand and a private brand is 5 percent to 20 percent.

Thomas said she has worked for 18 months on the relaunch, which includes some new items, reformulated items and existing items in new packages. Some reformulated products include cereal, cookies, yogurt, detergent and paper towels.

TRANSITIONING TO THE NEW GREAT VALUE

The new Great Value items will begin rolling out this month, with the entire brand in the new packaging by the end of the summer, Thomas said.

She said no markdowns are planned on existing Great Value items. Instead, Thomas said that in some stores consumers will see the old Great Value packaging sitting on shelves next to the Great Value items in new packaging, as Wal-Mart sells through the current inventory.

While Thomas declined to disclose the cost of the relaunch, she said customers should not see any change in the prices they pay for Great Value items.

"We've carefully designed this so that the price of the product wouldn't go up," she said. "Prices were not impacted by the relaunch."

But she also said Wal-Mart will watch the brand to make sure it holds its own against national brands and deserves the shelf space it is being given.

"We have to earn our way just like our national brands," she told Reuters TV.

She also said that shoppers will be able to write reviews of its Great Value products on Wal-Mart's website, although it is not possible to buy its groceries online.

Most of the revamped Great Value packaging will list product description and nutritional information in English and Spanish. Thomas said the exception to that will be on packages that are too small, such as cans of tuna or yogurt.

"Everywhere we could put it, we did," she said.

In an effort to appeal to the fast-growing Hispanic population, Wal-Mart is opening two supermarkets targeting Hispanic consumers in Arizona and Texas. The stores will be called Supermercado de Walmart.

Wal-Mart shares closed down 39 cents, or less than 1 percent, at $48.80 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller and Ben Klayman; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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