OfficeMax Intros 4 New Brands

NEW YORK OfficeMax has just launched four private label brands — Ascend, Canterbury, Divoga and Infuse — with the intent of adding more colorful, design-focused office supplies currently not carried in its stores.

The new products mark OfficeMax’s first major private label launch since 2006, when it introduced Tul, a line of “modernist design-inspired” pens and dry-erase markers.

Private label brands are typically a cost-effective way for retailers to introduce products directly to market and pass on the savings to consumers. “It’s not a bad move for [OfficeMax] to be launching these products in the economic downturn, when existing manufacturers have less leverage and it’s difficult to maintain margins,” said Marc E. Babej, a partner of Reason Inc., New York, adding that the items have a better chance of success if they are cheaper than those currently offered. “People are pinching pennies already and they will be pinching pennies even more.”

Babej said private label brands work best when they’re “anti-brands,” meaning when consumers don’t develop an emotional connection with the items but simply buy them because they’re “almost as good or as good” as products already on store shelves, and they “cost less.”

While some items are priced slightly less, for the most part, Ascend, Canterbury, Divoga and Infuse products are priced similarly to their branded counterparts. When introducing the products, OfficeMax instead wanted to focus on “innovation through private label, while adding a little flare and personality to office supplies to make cubicles a more pleasant working environment,” said an OfficeMax representative. According to Babej, however, the retailer will be faced with the challenge of convincing consumers that they are getting a good price-performance deal when buying the private labels, especially during a recession.

OfficeMax is marketing the four private labels via an integrated campaign that includes direct and e-mail marketing, a two-page spread in Newsweek, pre-print (circular) ads, in-store displays and Web landing pages. The retailer premiered two patterns of the Divoga line (Bazaar and Journey) during New York’s Fashion Week and at Newsweek‘s Women in Leadership Conference on Oct. 7.

Naperville, Ill.-based OfficeMax is the third-largest office supplies retailer the U.S., behind Staples and Office Depot; it operates more than 900 stores across the country.