Store Brands: Sometimes a Bargain, Sometimes a Disappointment

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

It’s a smart financial strategy to price-shop for the items we buy everyday like groceries and other staples. Whether we seek out our favorite brands or are less brand-loyal and shop according to sales, the best way to get good pricing is to know where and when to buy the products we need at low prices. If you do switch among brands to optimize your savings, be aware that there are times when what seems to be a bargain isn’t really a bargain after all.

Consider the store’s own brands. Oftentimes these items are great quality offered at a considerably lower cost. Sometimes, although they aren’t as great as a name brand, the difference doesn’t matter to you, because you appreciate the alternative which saves you money. Other times, however, the store brand is noticeably inferior. In that case, you haven’t saved so much as you’ve wasted the purchase price on a product in which you’re disappointed.

I recently had two experiences with store brands – one positive and one negative.

The Good

I purchased a refill bottle of antibacterial hand soap for our bathroom. It was the same distinctive color and – as soon as I smelled it – I knew immediately that it had the identical scent as a popular name brand that is much costlier. While I don’t know that it is the actual name brand in disguise, I’m very pleased with this product and I will specifically look for the store brand again next time I’m in the market for antibacterial hand soap.

The Bad

I had a much different experience when I bought the same store’s house brand taco shells. I didn’t like the look of them from the moment I removed them from the package. They just looked “cheap.” Upon eating them, they were virtually tasteless and seemed smaller and more fragile than other taco shells I’ve tried, regardless of brand. Needless to say, I won’t buy this store’s taco shells again.

Try It and See

There are no hard and fast rules as to when to buy a store brand and when to stick to a name brand. You just have to give them a try to determine that the quality is acceptable and that the price is significantly lower to make it a good purchase. For example, I don’t spring for name brand plastic storage zipper bags. I go through a LOT of storage bags in my house and they really don’t need to be super-duper high quality. They serve their purpose for storing leftovers, then they’re discarded. As long as they seal securely, any brand will fit my needs, so why spend more on the highest quality if I don’t need it?

Be Store Brand Savvy

When purchasing store brands, pay attention to the quantity and price per unit. Make sure you’re comparing the same amount of store brand and name brand or your comparison will be invalid. Don’t assume that because it’s the store brand that it’s automatically the cheapest option. There may be a sale or discount available (like a coupon, quantity discount or rebate) on another brand that would make it worth your while to purchase a name brand.

While some people automatically assume that store brands are of inferior quality, I personally have no problem purchasing them, so long as they meet my needs and provide significant savings. They actually represent a consumer-friendly option in the marketplace that I welcome. When purchasing store brands, just make certain that you really are getting the quality you need at an appropriate price point.

What have been your experiences with store brands?

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