Hudson's Bay Company private brand of tobacco, registered 1910
You see them every time you're in one of our stores. You've probably taken them home with you after a day of shopping. They're HBC private brands - but what does that mean? What exactly is a private brand and what sets it apart from all of the other products that stock the shelves and dress the mannequins? Well, the short answer is that a private brand line is one that has been specially crafted to appeal to HBC customers.
To discover exactly who our customers are, focus groups are held. These not only help to determine who the customers are but also identify what they want. As different customers have different needs, different brands are developed, each with a slightly different appeal but consistent with the overall image the corporation as a whole wants for its products. At any given time, Hudson's Bay will have several private brand labels.
Hudson's Bay Company private brand of clothing and softlines, 1990 to present
However much their focus may differ, these brands are alike in that they are exclusive to Hudson's Bay and can't be purchased anywhere else. To confuse the subject slightly, there is another group of products, known as exclusive or captive brands, which share much in common with the private brands. These products can be designed in-house in much the same manner as the private brands, but are marketed under a name that is exclusive to HBC in Canada but may be sold in other stores in other countries. These include lines such as Cherokee at Zellers.
A lot goes into the generation of a line of private brand products. Technical, merchant, brand management, customer service, risk management and vendor teams all work together to bring the brands to the stores. In terms of design, colours have to be picked, styles and trends have to be identified and then evaluated for suitability, lines have to be assembled and reviewed, samples have to be produced and tweaked until they're perfect. Then vendors have to be contacted, selected and the costing done. All of this has to happen before the items can be made, shipped and stocked in the store, and while this description has been condensed into a brief paragraph, the whole process usually takes about a year!