Ahlert, D., Olbrich, R., Kenning, P. and Schroeder, H. (2009), "Guest editorial", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 37 No. 11.

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Guest editorial

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Volume 37, Issue 11

Retail branding plays a decisive role in successful retail management. In times of increasing competition, stagnating demand, and increased complexity, providers have recognized that retail chains can no longer stand out from the crowd only by varying assortments, visual merchandising, or prices. Therefore, retail branding offers a successful approach for building a distinctive profile. In response to the changing marketplace, this special issue draws on new perspectives from retail branding in order to bring readers to the present state of research. Moreover, the objective of the special issue is to introduce new research approaches and ideas for an efficient management of retail brands that are important for theory and practice. We are pleased that this issue includes conceptual papers and empirical works as well as case studies, and that it addresses the two main aspects of retail branding – store brands and private label management. A brief sketch of the papers follows here.

The first paper, “Consumer-factors moderating private label brand success: further empirical results,” by Mark S. Glynn and Shaoshan Chen, examines the category-level differences of both risk perception and brand loyalty effects on consumer proneness towards buying private label brands. This study extends earlier work by examining the private label brands effects of brand loyalty and price quality by product category, using a mall-intercept survey. The results indicate that quality variability, price consciousness, price quality association, and brand loyalty influence consumer propensity to buy private label brands. In addition, their study shows that income, education, and household size are moderators for purchasing private label brands. These findings confirm the importance of price consciousness and quality variability on private label brand purchasing. However, the importance of these determinants depends on both the product category and the market share of private label brands within the category. Mark S. Glynn and Shaoshan Chen draw several implications from their research. First, retailers and manufacturers need to consider the effects of private label brands in relation to the product category. For retailers, the value of private label brands is less relevant in some categories, but it is important in order to appeal to the price-conscious consumer. In turn, manufacturers should note that in some categories brand loyalty is essential, but not so much as is price consciousness. Second, customer income is still an important determinant of private label brand purchasing. Overall, the study indicates the significance of considering the product category differences that make it more difficult to generalize about purchasing private label brands.

The second paper, Dirk Standop and Guido Grunwald's “How to solve product-harm crises in retailing? Empirical insights from service recovery and negative publicity research,” presents the current empirical research that examines communication, compensation, and logistics as elements of product crises management in retailing. We determine this to be relevant for retail branding because a crisis could threaten several outcomes of retail brand management, e.g. retail brand equity. The paper summarizes the major findings of the research for each element of crisis response, and shows how they relate to crisis management. Dirk Standop and Guido Grunwald find that both communicative and compensatory response elements, as well as the retailer's logistics, can positively influence evaluations of customers that are directly and indirectly affected by product problems, thus enhancing retail brand equity. However, potential problems concerning the co-ordination or implementation of manufacturer and retailer strategies remain open to question. Consequently, Dirk Standop and Guido Grunwald call for further research to examine which strategies are appropriate to specific crisis situations.

The third paper, by Rainer Olbrich and Gundula Grewe, addresses the competition of private labels and national brands, a field that is often object of conflicts in marketing channels. “Consequences of competition between national brands and private labels: empirical results from different German outlet formats” includes rich sample data. The starting point for Rainer Olbrich and Gundula Grewe is the fact that the proliferation of private labels in European food retailing has been evident for several years, and against this background, their study analyzes the impact of competition between national brands and private labels on product variety, prices, and turnover. Within the empirical study, they analyze scanner data from different German outlet formats for a product group from the ready-meals category over a total period of six years (between 2000 and 2005). The study contains time series as well as regression analyses. The empirical results indicate that, in all studied outlet formats, there is evidence of decreasing product variety and increasing prices over time. Moreover, the results show that the level of turnover in supermarkets, and especially in hypermarkets, is in decline. A positive turnover trend can only be found in discount stores.

The paper “Moderating role of involvement in building a retail brand” by Bernhard Swoboda, Frank Haelsig, Hanna Schramm-Klein, and Dirk Morschett focuses on one of the main antecedents of consumer behaviour concerning its role in building a retail brand. Their study addresses how consumer involvement influences perception of retailer attributes, which in turn affects customer-based retail brand equity when considering retailers as brands. The four authors developed a model that includes the impact of central dimensions of the perception of retailer attributes, their effects on customer-based retail brand equity, and the moderating role of consumer involvement. The empirical study is based on a sample of 3,000 consumers spread over five retail sectors (grocery, clothing, DIY, electronics, and furniture). Using multiple-group structural equation modelling, the authors demonstrate the intersectional relevance of involvement as a moderator in building a strong retail brand. Obviously, in retailing, consumer involvement has a moderating effect on the influence of retailer attributes on retail brand equity. The direction of this influence differs, however, from one perceived retailer attribute to the next. Though the influence of price, communication, and store design is greater on highly involved consumers than on those with low involvement, the influence of service and assortment is greater on consumers with low involvement. Since consumers with a different level of involvement have a different perception of retailer attributes, this factor is relevant to retail branding. In conclusion, this study shows that retail management should control for customer involvement as a key moderator for building retail brands.

In their conceptual paper, “Retailer premium own-brands: creating customer loyalty through own-brand products advantage,” Ying Huang and Patricia Huddleston propose a theoretical model which investigates antecedents, consequences, and contingency factors of a retailer own-brand product advantage. The two authors develop propositions and managerial implications, summarizing empirical work related to the key constructs of their theoretical model and identifying gaps in the literature. Moreover, Ying Huang and Patricia Huddleston provide definitions of each antecedent and outcome of private label product advantage, and discuss managerial implications of the proposed framework. They find that retailers who have a higher degree of customer participation, innovation, and brand orientations are likely to have a stronger own-brand product advantage. In turn, those retailers are more likely to have loyal customers and superior own-brand financial performance. These relationships will be influenced by retailer image, market power, and number of national brands, as well as category size, technology complexity, and competitive intensity. The logical assumption is, therefore, that understanding the key outcomes of own-brand product advantage will facilitate management's evaluation of current retail product development strategies. If outcomes of the current own-brand strategy are not satisfactory, an assessment of customer participation, innovation, and brand orientations effectiveness may be warranted.

Last but not least, the paper by Marilyn Lavin titled “Marshall Field's becomes Macy's: understanding retail brand” contains an very intriguing case study on retail branding. More precisely, Marilyn Lavin examines in detail the controversy surrounding the 2006 extension of the Macy brand to the Marshall Field's stores. Initial reactions, as well as on-going resistance, to the re-branding provide a fruitful means of understanding of the strength of retail brand, how it is established, and whether “symbols and traditions” may be separated from retail brand per se. One can assume, that the effort of Federated Department Stores (later Macy's Inc.) to re-brand Marshall Field's as Macy's offers a unique opportunity to understand retail brand. The paper builds on news accounts for a chronology of events leading up to and following the Marshall Field's re-branding as Macy's. In addition, analysis of postings to the customer-originated “fieldsfanschicago-blog” is used to understand, from the consumer's viewpoint, how a retail brand is formed and to consider the strength of retail brands. This “crisis-case-study” concludes that retail brands may be as strong as product brands, that personal experience, as well as retailer-controlled variables, is strongly associated with retail brands, and that retailer “symbols and traditions” are an integral component of the retail brand. Overall, the paper presents facts that retail managers should take very seriously.

To summarize, this special issue provides rich insights into the phenomena of retail brands and private labels. We hope that it will enable retail and distribution management, as well as researchers to better understand the relevance and drivers of retail brands and private labels. Additionally, we anticipate that the issue will stimulate further research in this important area.

Finally, this special issue would not have been possible without the generous assistance of a number of people. In particular, we would like to thank (in alphabetical order) Tim Ambler, Carsten Baumgarth, Brian Brown, Christoph Burmann, Steve Burt, John Dawson, Maria-Elena Delgado-Ballester, Martin Eisend, Franz-Rudolf Esch, Heiner Evanschitzky, Stephan Grzeskowiak, Alexander Haas, Flemming Hansen, Michael Levy, Dirk Morschett, Martin Natter, Stefan Roth, Hanna Schramm-Klein, Leigh Sparks, Bernhard Swoboda, Waldemar Toporowski, Franziska Voelckner, Albert Weichselbraun, and David Woisetschlaeger for their expertise and their valuable comments. Last but not least, we would like to thank Marco Hubert, PhD student at Zeppelin University, for his indispensable support.

Dieter Ahlert, Rainer Olbrich, Peter Kenning, Hendrik SchroederGuest Editors