Retailer Brandless makes a brand play for no-frills value online

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Retailer Brandless makes a brand play for no-frills value online

By Michael Johnsen - 07/11/2017

SAN FRANCISCO — The retro value-oriented online retailer Brandless swung open its (virtual) doors for business on Tuesday, featuring a bevy of nameless, national-brand equivalent products all retailing for a flat $3.

It's a counter-movement to today's retail brand progression that has evolved from the NBE, black-and-white label store brand options of decades past to "own brand" adaptations that seek to rival the innovation and appeal of brand name products.

"Today, 7-11-2017, is our starting line," noted founder Tina Sharkey in a blog on the Brandless site. "Our everyday essentials collection — aka the things you use all the time — just launched with an extensive array of awesome products, from snacks to soap to serving spoons. All for just $3."

Helping to streamline the back-end is a limited selection, Sharkey noted. "We’re not overwhelming you with options (there aren’t 100 pasta sauces to compare, there are three) or forcing you to over-consume (no need to stock up to save, you can get great value buying just one)," she shared. "We don’t want you to spend your time and energy trying to figure out the difference between 20 different Italian dressings or hunting for the best deal. We’re bringing you an edited assortment of better products at a fairer price."

To help market that no-frills packaging, Sharkey shares with potential consumers the concept of the "BrandTax," otherwise known as the "hidden costs you pay for a national brand often associated with production and retailer margin," she wrote. "We’ve been trained to believe these markups increase the quality of the product, but they rarely do. And those markups seriously add up. In fact, you pay an average of 40% more to have a big-name brand on the label."

In addition to delivering value through its "brandless" promise, the company donates a meal to Feeding America with every Brandless order. "At Brandless, we care about kindness and generosity, we care about trust and honesty," Sharkey wrote. "[W]hile $3 is a great starting point in making better stuff accessible to more people, we know that doesn’t include everyone," she noted. "Though today is our official launch day, we’ve already donated thousands of meals thanks to the early believers in the Brandless promise."