Grocery and convenience store chains are the latest group of corporate brands to get into limited-edition branded merchandise drops in a big way. The products seem to be resonating with loyal consumers and, in several cases, lending a cool factor to the brands among young adults.
Recent examples include:
- Aldi. The value grocery retailer next week is launching its latest limited-edition Aldi Gear Collection, consisting of 10 products including belt bags, bucket hats, and track suits. In keeping with the chain’s low price promise, all are under $10. The products are described as trendy, with retro vibes and a modern twist, and feature bold striped elements in Aldi’s signature colors. The company launched its first collection in spring of 2021 and has seen success with pajama sets, keychain quarter holders, slides, and hydration bottles. Some of those categories are reprised in this year’s drop, which is merchandised in the Aldi Finds aisle, where consumers can discover limited-time specialty items, from home goods to foods.
- Costco. The warehouse store launched a new apparel line this month, featuring both its corporate brand and sub-brands such as its private label Kirkland Signature. Many of the items sold out quickly and also were hits on TikTok. The branded merchandise release, which includes crewneck sweatshirts, sweatpants, and other casual wear, capitalizes on a recent trend in which young consumers have embraced Costco as a source for fashion merchandise and have turned to TikTok to show off the value-priced clothing items from brands like Eddie Bauer or Puma that they had just purchased at Costco. They are doing the same now with their Kirkland-branded fashion.
- H-E-B. In November 2022, Texas grocery chain H-E-B introduced H-E-B Brand Shops, starting in one of its stores. It rolled the concept out to four additional shops in December and plans to expand to more locations this year. Among the nearly 60 products available at launch were stickers, hats, water bottles, beverage coozies, baby onesies, tote bags, t-shirts, sneakers, and more. H-E-B’s merchandise features phrases such as “H-E-Baby,” “I [heart] my H-E-B,” and “Texas Raised, H-E-B Strong,” among other Texas-related themes, as well as logos and corporate colors. Sub-brands such as Café Ole by H-E-B and H-E-B Bakery are also promoted among the offerings.
- Stewart’s. Last November, Stewart’s Shops, a convenience store chain in the Northeast, debuted its online store, which sells branded goods as well as a few non-perishable consumables, such as coffee. Stewart’s-branded products include socks, tumblers, baby bodysuits, knitted hats, and car stickers, the last promoting the chain’s beloved ice cream. Stewart’s My Money Cards and Gas Cards are also available on the site. Multiple limited-edition drops were expected throughout the year.
- 7-Eleven. In August 2022, the convenience chain started selling branded goods, including apparel and other categories, both featuring its corporate name and logo and key brands such as Big Gulp, via e-commerce. The brand is called 7Collection and includes t-shirts and long-sleeve shirts, fanny packs, blankets, socks, bucket hats, and baseball caps. Collections within the initial array included the Slurpee Collection and the Cars of 7-Eleven Collection, the latter featuring merchandise tied to the 7-Eleven branded Ford Mustang that came out in 2021, the Model 711.
- Publix. An early entrant to the current trend, Publix launched an online branded-merchandise store in 2019 called Fresh Goods. Merchandise includes home goods and toys, as well as apparel and accessories such as t-shirts, socks, and fanny packs. Some items in Publix’ range incorporate language tied to specific products or promotions, such as a sweatshirt featuring a logo and the words “Chicken Tender Sub, Sweet Tea & Sprinkle Cookie” in large type, or swag printed with the hashtag “#PubSubs” or “Just Dreaming About Buy 1 Get 1.”
Circle K and Wawa are among the other grocery and convenience chains selling some sort of branded merchandise, online and/or in-store.
All of the collections cited here are designed, produced, and distributed in-house. But these sorts of drops often are a foundation for collaborations down the road and companies such as 7-Eleven are already taking this route. 7-Eleven’s collaborators to date include Crocs and Overtime (with designer Otabor), both released last fall. The latter was a streetwear-sportswear collection that integrated basketball looks with 7-Eleven brands such as Big Gulp and Slurpee. It will be interesting to see if some of the other retail chains listed here will join 7-Eleven in the collaboration space as the next step in their branded-goods progression.
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