PRODUCTS: The Public's Crush On Private Labels

For years many shoppers turned up their noses at "private label" goods, those moderately priced and stingily promoted items that carry the store's own brand name instead of the manufacturer's. Cautious consumers, unsure of their judgment, usually sought out the costlier, more lavishly advertised "national or brand name" products. Now these buying patterns are shifting. The popularity of private-label goods—food, clothes, whisky, appliances, household furnishings—is rising. The change is creating a big, rich and occasionally wacky sales trend in U.S. marketing.

The National Retail Merchants Association estimates that private labels account...

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