Chris Durham of My Private Brand recently had the opportunity to interview Brent Tininenko, Vice President Private Brands at Dallas, Texas based discount retailer Fred’s Inc. MBD partnered with Fred’s to launch 40+ new items in less than 5 months in 2018. Brent is a gifted leader who had this program off and running with speed to market levels never heard of in this industry. Brent has developed private brands at retailers and private brand companies including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Daymon Worldwide and Nash Finch.

CD: How did you get into the private brand business?
BT: 20+ years ago, Eagle Food Centers put me on a project to investigate all 3rd party private brand providers (Daymon, Federated, MMI, etc.) and make a recommendation on partnering and then how to quickly grow private brands.  I have been on that path ever since.

CD: What brought you to Fred’s?
BT: I was recruited to re-ignite and significantly increase the connection with our private brands to our customers and grow sales.

CD: Who is your customer?
BT: We continue to ask that question every-day and continue to learn.  We just launched a customer loyalty program and are finding that our customers are loyal Fred’s shoppers that value great prices and our commitment to their community.

CD: Over the last few years, Fred’s has gone through a lot of changes, what does the path look like moving forward?
BT: We are on the path of reversing our sales declines, stabilizing our vision by delivering a consistent direction to our team and our customers, re-connecting and improving our relationship with our customers, and continuing to give them a reason to keep coming back.

CD: What role will private brand play?
BT: Private Brands will be leading the connection, sales growth, and delivering value.  It is the top merchandising initiative for Fred’s.

CD: How will your private brand portfolio evolve?
BT: We have a good foundation of items that we can build on. Now, our direction is to significantly expand the range, create better connections with our current suppliers and expand with new supplier/partners, create even better value, and deliver on quality consistently.

CD: How will this impact your brands?
BT: We are evaluating our current brand portfolio and working to consolidate our number of different brands and develop more SKU’s in our brands to give a better connection with our customers.  Our Fred’s private brands are the #1 or #2 best-selling items in most of our categories.  In addition, we have launched a packaging redesign that continues to reinforce our connection to value and our heritage in the communities that we serve.

CD: What goals have you set for your private brand team?
BT: Our team encompasses all of the merchants and operations throughout the company.  Our goal is to move from 12 – 14% sales penetration to 20+% within one year.

CD: How has the private brand community reacted to Fred’s evolution?
BT: We are getting noticed and have suppliers working to partner with us.  We have just launched categories with leading suppliers that were not previously selling to Fred’s.

CD: What is your most significant accomplishment in 2018?
BT: Launching 40+ items with three new suppliers in less than five months in a new, exciting packaging direction.  I was happy to partner with MBD, Maria Dubuc, in our packaging design.  She and her team have been a wealth of knowledge and support for me.
Also, riding 5,300+ miles cycling!

CD: What keeps you up at night?
BT: Not having an efficient supply chain and not moving fast enough into new categories and items.  Then, getting consistent in quality and our customer communication.

CD: What do you do in your spare time?
BT: Ride bikes!  It is a great release of energy, an awesome way to explore new areas (I recently moved from Bentonville, AR to Memphis, TN for Fred’s), and I’ve been able to develop new relationships through all of the excellent group riding!

CD: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting, what would it be?
BT: Continue to learn, explore, ask questions and network.  Participate in private brand conferences – the Velocity Conference is excellent to learn and connect with peers in the business.  There are a lot of people in our private brand world that are happy to share their experiences and help you succeed.

CD: What is your biggest challenge right now?
BT: Speed to market.  I.E., moving through product development, price negotiation, packaging development to launch.

CD: What resources would be helpful?
BT: Pro-active suppliers that want to grow a partnership.  Then, product and category sourcing expertise to help expand our relationships faster.

CD: What should retailers and their private brand do differently?
BT: Learn their connection with their customers, then establish the company direction on private brands, commit, and continue to review that connection and give the customers what they need; then, expand and provide them what they want.

CD: If you could tell the private brand community one thing about Fred’s what would it be?
BT: We are committed and focused to turn-around our company and will lead that turn-around with private brands.  Also, we will take risks and are a great testing ground for new ideas!  Example, we launched a Chicago Mix popcorn, where there isn’t a national brand match, through our partnership with our supplier, and it is currently our best-selling new item.  Also, we launched a salad-ready tomato in a beautiful can that doesn’t have a brand equivalent and is achieving sales success.

Read the full story on the MyPBrand blog.