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Businesses The Almighty Buck Hardware

Amazon Owns a Whole Collection of Secret Brands (qz.com) 110

Mike Murphy, writing for Quartz: After decades of selling products -- and knowing exactly what people are buying, and when they are buying it -- Amazon has started cutting out the middle-man by selling self-produced items. Through its AmazonBasics house brand, it sells all sorts of small items, from iPhone chargers, to batteries, power strips -- even foam rollers, backpacks and washcloths. It's the sort of stuff that you might not be too brand loyal over -- who really minds whether it's a Duracell or a Panasonic battery? Amazon sees that a product is selling well, and may decide to work with manufacturers to make the product itself -- it's a tactic that is already worrying vendors, and can't bode well for partnerships in the long run. But those are the obvious instances. Now, Amazon is selling products across a wide array of categories, using a host of brands that do not exist outside the confines of amazon.com and do not make it clear that they are Amazon-made products. Trawling through over 800 trademarks that Amazon has either been awarded or applied for through the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Quartz identified 19 brands that are owned by Amazon and sell products or have product pages on amazon.com: Arabella, for lingerie products; Beauty Bar for cosmetics; Denali for tools; Franklin & Freeman for men's shoes; Happy Belly for fresh food; James & Erin for women's clothing; Lark & Ro for women's clothing; Mae for underwear; Mama Bear for baby products; Myhabit for consumer goods; North Eleven for women's clothing; NuPro for tech accessories; Pike Street for linen; Pinzon (by Amazon) for linen; Scout + Ro for kid's clothing; Single Cow Burger for frozen food; Small Parts for spare parts; Smart is Beautiful for clothing; and Strathwood for furniture.
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Amazon Owns a Whole Collection of Secret Brands

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  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:11PM (#54956395) Homepage

    Make this out like this is some big bad monopolistic move, but every major retail company sells private-label goods. Whether it's Wal-Mart with its Ozark Trail or Mainstays, Aldi / Trader Joes and almost every product, or Target and Market Pantry, Archer Farms, etc.

    This is not nearly news. AmazonBasics is very old news.

    I did see Happy Belly products on an asian Amazon site. I'm not sure if they have many US products under that brand yet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by MBGMorden ( 803437 )

      Yep - everyone else is doing it too, and honestly, I've not found a single AmazonBasics product that didn't work well. Usually they're completely no-frills simple versions of whatever you're buying, but they seem to be well-built in all cases. I'm using several of their mice/keyboards, quite a few USB & audio cables, a laptop bag, DVD-R's, and a whole pile of rechargeable batteries. All have worked well.

      Compared with the generic stuff from Wal-mart I actually LIKE Amazon's stuff, and at least they're

    • It is called private labeling and every company can do it. You buy in bulk and get your name on the product.

      As you said it isn't a big deal. However it can cut both ways or have we forgotten Amazon basic USB cables that under performed during the USB cable scandal a couple of years ago? True it affected lots of people but Amazon basics got burned.

      As it is Amazon basic products have a lot of mediocre reviews especially cables.

      • You buy in bulk and get your name on the product.

        In fact, most of the 3rd party sellers on Amazon do exactly this, and I am never sorry to see them go. 9 times out of 10 you can take the 3rd party item on Amazon, do an image search and find the exact item on Alibaba or similar. All they do is import it and sell it on Amazon. Some are even more brazen and simply go to Harbor Freight, buy some crappy "Chicago" tools and resell them without revealing the source.

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        I had a problem with Amazon HDMI cables, so I am pretty cautious about their stuff.
      • by SB5407 ( 4372273 )

        Have we forgotten Amazon basic USB cables that under performed during the USB cable scandal a couple of years ago?

        I don't recall that. I searched Google but found nothing about underperforming AmazonBasics USB cables. Do you have a source?

    • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

      Walmart etc isn't an auction site where I go into the store and put my items for sale however.

      They're directly competing with you if you sell well on their site, it's a bit different.

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

        Walmart etc isn't an auction site where I go into the store and put my items for sale however.

        They're directly competing with you if you sell well on their site, it's a bit different.

        Are you maybe confusing Amazon with eBay? Amazon is not an auction site by any stretch of the imagination. Now if you are talking about sites with third party sellers, then yes, actually walmart.com is exactly that. Thousands of third party sellers on there. Sears.com as well, btw.

      • Have you searched Wal-Mart's web site lately? They offer a third-party seller platform too. It's garbage, and it really just makes good search results hard to find - not quite as bad as NewEgg's program, but close.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:50PM (#54956685)

      A lot of smaller stores does this as well. Back in the days before every business decision seems to have a deep underhanded conspiracy, they use to call them generic brands, often sold at a lower price. Because you are not paying for the brand name. Or sometimes they will make their own product at a higher quality and put a fancy premium name on it. To get peoples attention.

      While Amazon would probably be happy that people may choose their brands. It isn't like there is a huge advertising push to get these brands well recognized.

      • I was at the mall and there was this store called GAP. Inside was nothing but "GAP" branded merchandise. Later I found out that this same company also sells "Old Navy" and "Banana Republic" branded stuff. None of those stores reveal their affiliation with one another. EVIL! How are third-party re-sellers supposed to survive at GAP?

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        At my local big box store (Carrefour), they even have 3 levels of generic brands for food : discount, standard and quality. Discount is obviously the cheapest and lowest quality, standard is on the same level as mid-range brands and quality is about the best you can find in a supermarket. There is a significant difference between each tier. I especially like the high tier : good quality at affordable price, stepping up means going to gourmet shops and paying at least double.

        As for the actual supplier, it is

    • by jimbo ( 1370 )

      Indeed, it's been common forever, and not just store brands, many brands we think of as unique are "OEM" type brands.

      I read a comment from a worker at a toothpaste and shampoo factory; he said they put the same shit in tubes from different brands, sometimes with a flavor change added, sometimes unchanged. Similar story from a guy making vinyl siding - same stuff packaged in differently branded boxes, one was their own umbrella brand.

    • Not entirely true. Back in the days when I worked in OEM electronics industry, pretty much all big retailers were outsourcing running of their private brands to private brand operators.

      We were having a meeting with guys like Amazon, and BestBuy once in two months or so, showing them catalogues of what "Cheap Chinese Shit (TM)" we can bring to North America, nicely packed, certified, and labelled with their private brand.

      Their only contribution to development of such brands was them filling checkboxes in cat

    • I wonder how many of those are actually owned by the stores or are just relabeled versions of other brands. I know Costco (I think Trader Joe's too) does this.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I wonder how many of those are actually owned by the stores or are just relabeled versions of other brands. I know Costco (I think Trader Joe's too) does this.

        Most private labels are owned by the store in question, but they contract out its production to generally well known brands to produce - almost no one produces private label stuff in house.

        Costco's Kirkland brand (named after well, the city of Kirkland in Washington, where they started I believe) is basically specially packaged brand name stuff. As ty

    • ... every major retail company sells private-label goods. ...

      Yep.

      The Nordstrom Rack has a reputation for being Nordstrom's garage sale – designer and mid-range for cheap. That it certainly is. But also, in order to keep the racks full, Nordstrom's also has some labels specifically for the 'Rack' only.

      Evergreen-brand T-shirts. I'm wearing one right now.

    • And groceries! These recent news stories are a little rediculous.
      "Amazon to start selling Groceries! What does this mean for commerce!? Is Amazon a monopoly" You mean selling durable goods and groceries just like Fred Meyer and Costco and WalMart and Target and ...

      "Amazon now selling white label house brands! Is Amazon a Monopoly!? What does this mean!" You mean just like Safeway and Krogers and Costco and WalMart and Target and QFC and Bartell's and RiteAid....

      Costco also sells vacation packages, Gasolin

    • by Comen ( 321331 )

      The Grocery Store I shop at, Harris Teeter does the same thing, in fact I notice that it must also watch what sells the most and can be replaced most easily and works with the manufactures to duplicate the items, just cheaper with their own name brand, it is a popular thing to do. It must seem unfair if you are the company it decides to replace.

  • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:15PM (#54956411)

    Wal-Mart has Sam's Choice, Great Value, Equate, Mainstays, Ol' Roy, Dr. Thunder, Special Kitty, Parent's Choice, Price First, etc.

    Kroger has Big K, Fresh Selections, Home Sense, Pet Pride, Private Selection, Simple Truth, Abound, etc.

    Sears has DieHard, Kenmore, Craftsman, etc.

    This is not new behavior.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They have been using the data they get from sales of niche stores products to decide to outcompete said niche store by going direct to their producer/supplier and making them 'an offer they can't refuse.'

      The result of this is *EVERYBODY* is too weak to compete with Amazon toe to toe, but nowadays anyone who wants to sell their goods online is stuck between Amazon, ebay, newegg and alibaba, and only the first is considered reputable for the broad variety of goods and the private stores selling through it. Th

      • if amazon is going to SWAT YOU DOWN and STEAL YOUR HARD WORK as soon as your business is becoming financially successful

        You mean all the hard work of doing a search on alibaba.com to find some doo-dad that they can buy in bulk and sell at a mark-up on Amazon?

        Or do you actually think all those sellers are really sitting around soldering USB 3.0 cables, injection molding iPhone cases and sewing laptop cases by hand in their home office?

    • Sears *HAD* Craftsman, recently sold it though

      • by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @01:13PM (#54956851)

        Sears *HAD* Craftsman, recently sold it though

        Ah Sears, the company that should have been what Amazon is today, but instead is in a slow, inevitable death spiral instead.

        • They couldn't have become Amazon, for a wide variety of reasons. Let's say that they had tried. Amazon grew by learning how to do logistics well and applying it to a slowly-growing number of categories. They started with books and music, which are relatively easy (they don't rot, and they basically always work so returns are exceedingly rare). Once they got good at that, they started branching out. Sears, by contrast, would have been expected to offer (almost) their entire catalog online at once. There's n
          • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
            You are forgetting that from it's inception until the very early 90's Sears already was what Amazon is today. They already had the logistics worked out, with stores, warehouses, and distribution hubs already in place across north america. They had already mastered what Amazon had to learn from scratch. They were the kings of the catalog business and that isn't very different at all from what Amazon does today, just with a different delivery medium (paper vs online) and a faster timeline. All they had to d
            • They would have had to have avoided making those long-term mall deals. No bricks (low overhead) was a huge advantage for Amazon. But, in 1970, why wouldn't you sign a 40-year lease?
          • Sears has been a catalog-order company for over a century. Logistics is something they had figured out. They blew it all on brick and mortar and the the Internet came in and ate their lunch.

            • True, but if they hadn't spent a bunch on brick and mortar, it's probable that they would have died even earlier. Businesses founded on anything other than location are always precarious; it's somewhat telling that the longest-running businesses in the world are generally based around hot springs/spas.
              • It's not about how much they spent - it was really profitable at the time. But this was just before the Internet was becoming a thing. If they had the foresight to keep their old stuff alive just a little bit longer, it would have been useful all over again.

        • Except in Canada where Sears has been making a series of PR mistakes and turning it into a fast, inevitable death spiral instead.

          Things like closing a bunch of stores, not giving the employees any severance, and announcing a big retention bonus for the upper management that got them into the troubles in the first place. The the same geniuses decided to close down a couple franchise stores in rural towns (different word for it), all but one of whom were making a profit despite supply problems from corporate,

        • Obligatory link: https://marketoonist.com/2014/... [marketoonist.com]

      • Sears *HAD* Craftsman, recently sold it though

        And *HAD* Diehard .. and is now selling Kenmore through Amazon

      • Sears *HAD* Craftsman, recently sold it though

        Really? Those things have a lifetime guarantee. Or maybe had... Good tools.

        Who bought the brand?

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      Sears has DieHard, Kenmore, Craftsman, etc.

      FWIW, Sears started some interesting things before that...

      Allstate (until 1995)
      Prodigy (until 1996)
      Dean Witter, Coldwell Banker, Discover Card (until 2007)

      Also as trivia for ./-ers, Sears also happened to be the exclusive distributors of the first home edition of Atari-Pong (which they called Telegames)

      In contrast, Costco (yet another Seattle based retailer) has had pretty good success keeping things straightforward with a single Kirkland brand. Apparently, you don't have to make up all sorts of "secret" h

      • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

        > Telegames

        I would get gamevision, but telegames? What's remote about the games? Ludicrous!

      • Also as trivia for ./-ers, Sears also happened to be the exclusive distributors of the first home edition of Atari-Pong (which they called Telegames)

        Maybe this is well known, but I just heard it from Al Alcorn's recent talk at California Extreme (Classic Arcade Games Show, caextreme.org).

        Atari DID go to a toy show (I don't remember if it was the now famous toy show that happens early every year and is covered on the news, etc.), but NOBODY else was interested in Pong.

        Sears had the exclusive because they wer

    • We bought so much Dr. Thunder when we were building our race car that we approached Wal-Mart to see if they wanted to throw us some sponsorship money. They didn't, but we put the sticker on anyway for our own amusement.

  • Woman shoes (at least 4 brands) and man clothing (another 4).

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:17PM (#54956437)
    Buying batteries on Amazon seems to be more or less a crap-shoot. Looking at the comments, there seems to be a lot of knock-off, e.g., Duracell, batteries being sold and Amazon doesn't seem to care about it. Maybe Amazon has looked the other way to make room from their own brand of batteries, or maybe they really just don't care , so long as the sale goes through. Who knows? But I'll never buy batteries on Amazon.
    • I don't buy batteries on Amazon, either. Even they can't beat the price I get at the dollar store.

    • Yeah, third-party battery sellers (and most are third-party) on Amazon are a crapshoot and I don't trust them to be what they say anymore. Even if you're lucky to get something branded correctly, it's unlikely to be packaged correctly (e.g., pictured with a box but shipped in a bag and who knows who old). Battery Junction and other specialty stores have become my go-to shopping destinations for these, and they're usually cheaper unless your order is extremely small (Battery Junction does charge shipping). I

  • Not Small Parts (Score:5, Informative)

    by pz ( 113803 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:34PM (#54956555) Journal

    ... Small Parts for spare parts ...

    I can't speak to the other brands, but Small Parts was an independent vendor of small hardware (think tiny screws, nuts, tubing, tools, etc.) that was legion within the scientific and engineering community. Small Parts and McMaster (and maybe MSC from time to time), and that's all you needed to build stuff from tiny to massive. SP had a small in-house engineering staff do to things like cut tubing to length, if you wanted it, too, and they always did a superlative job, even for super-ultra tiny stuff like 32 ga cannulae (substantially smaller than the smallest hypotermic needle that most people would have ever encountered).

    Then, Amazon bought Small Parts and it went to hell in a handbasket. I haven't bothered trying to buy anything from SP for a long while because what was once a highly functional web site became a gawd-awful mess. You used to search for, say, "stainless tubing" and get a nice array of selections that allowed you to use drop-down menus to set the different aspects and quickly get a price for exactly what you wanted. Or, you'd search for "spring wire" and get the same highly structured, easy-to-navigate page. Now, you get thousands of individual results and no way to navigate through them to the particular one you want. Bloody mess.

    So, this is one instance where the suggested house brand is in fact NOT a house brand, but an absorbed B-to-B vendor. And one that got ruined by being expanded into the vastness of Amazon.

    • Back when Amazon attempted Amazon Supply, I had hoped for their site to try and copy the functionality of McMaster.com, but they really failed at search there also. I think that some programmers look at Yahoo vs Google and get the impression that categorized search (and for replacement parts, categorized hierarchical search) is universally less useful for people, but at sites like McMaster and RockAuto, it's very much exactly what people need.
      • by pz ( 113803 )

        Yes, exactly. The difference between Google / Amazon / Yahoo (flat) search and McMaster (categorized) search is that when one is using the first kind, there are many different results any one of which will probably suffice --- "womens sneakers", "usb-c webcam", "organic toothpaste" --- but with categorized search, one wants not just a screw, but a stainless steel, panhead, philips drive, 8-32 machine screw that is 5/16 inch long. Almost no other screw will do if that's what you need, and matches from othe

        • It's the online equivalent of rearranging the store shelves. The longer you spend searching, the more likely you are to buy one of the bad matches in addition to the one thing you were looking for. This doesn't work with highly technical searches at all, but it gets them all sorts of extra sales otherwise. On top of that, they don't police 3rd-party vendors who list in completely wrong categories.

        • McMaster used to be famous for never telling you the brand name, just describing the functionality, so that they could switch brands as they found a better priced product for achieving the same goal. However, you can find a selection of different quality levels for some tools by looking at differences in the described function. Their "pipe and conduit thread repairing taps" (which can shatter if you drop them on a hard surface) are a much more inexpensive way to have the larger sizes on hand, especially if
  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @12:38PM (#54956581)

    What if Amazon secretly own Wal-Mart.

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      What if Amazon secretly own Wal-Mart.

      It's no secret that, Amazon currently *owns* Wal-Mart...
      That's why Amazon "made" Wal-Mart buy Jet.
      (yes, it's all part of the bigger illusion)

    • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is publicly held. The sale couldn't happen in secret.
  • If you're in the mood for a $5 burger patty, it's not a bad deal. The clothing is unexpectedly good, too.

  • who really minds whether it's a Duracell or a Panasonic battery

    On one level, I don't care -- repeated testing shows that the big name batteries do not tend to perform better than house-brand cheapies.

    On the other hand, I do care because name brand batteries are insanely expensive compared to the cheap brands that perform at least equally as well.

    • On the offchance that you have a product ruined by the batteries, like a maglight (since they aren't designed terribly well in restrospect and a battery swelling ruins the whole thing), Duracell is relatively painless to get recompense from.
      • Duracell is the only brand I won't buy. They always leak. I had a table ruined because the duracell batteries in the clock on the table leaked so badly (and the clock was still running). Maglite, xbox controllers, digital scales...everything I own that's ever touched a duracell has corrosion on it. And they don't honor their warranty at all for the past 5 years. They can't since they'd be bankrupt replacing all the things they've ruined. And if you don't believe me, google it. It's just duracell.
        • Ah thanks for the warning, then... I'd been tending to buy them since I had positive experiences before but perhaps things have changed.
      • It would never have occurred to me to try to get compensation from a battery company in the case of leaky batteries.

        But then, I've never had a battery leak unless I left it installed and sitting unused for years, in which case it's my fault, not the battery's.

      • There seem to be a number of fake Duracell batteries on Amazon... or quality has gone way down. Didn't know you could get compensation though... had to re-finish my desk because of a battery leak in keyboard...

        • Yeah it wouldn't have occurred to me if I hadn't searched online for any clever ways to get a swollen battery out of a maglight. Apparently Duracell and Energizer will stand by their products not ruining things. I lucked out in that one battery could be extracted easily enough to verify that they weren't expired. They gave me a check for replacing the flashlight and a coupon for more batteries. Amazon worries me for battery purchases, I usually get them at the hardware store, or if you have a warehouse
  • "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public,"
      - Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

    The middle of this story will be filled with golden excess. But it won't end well.

  • Amazon has started cutting out the middle-man by selling self-produced items.

    If they can do it, why not? Middlemen only make sense if they add value, and if Amazon can go directly to the manufacturer, all the better.

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @01:16PM (#54956869)

    It isn't uncommon that the brand owner doesn't own a production plant but already outsourced that to China and buys its own products labeled and packaged.

  • by thomn8r ( 635504 ) on Monday August 07, 2017 @01:51PM (#54957133)
    Yeah, other companies have their own in-house brands. We get it.

    What's insidious here is Amazon is looking through their data, seeing things from Company X that are selling well, and then short-circuiting that company's supply chain to procure and sell their own knock-off. Company X basically did all the market research and product development, and Amazon steals it reaps the rewards for basically free. Company X is now screwed.

    • I'm more concerned about Amazon manipulating Searches and Review in favor of their products.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      What's insidious here is Amazon is looking through their data, seeing things from Company X that are selling well...

      Which is inherent in any electronic marketplace, so the term "insidious" does not apply. What is moronic here is an electronic marketplace seller not realizing that the marketplace owner has complete visibility into their sales, whether it's Amazon.com, Walmart.com, eBay.com, or anyone else.

      and then short-circuiting that company's supply chain to procure and sell their own knock-off.

      How does

      • More to the point, why is the company disclosing its supply chain to Amazon, and how would using that information be Amazon's fault?

        Drop shipping, if they're dumb enough to have it shipped straight from China to the warehouse - Amazon gets most of the info they need to reach out to the supplier.

        • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

          Drop shipping, if they're dumb enough to have it shipped straight from China to the warehouse - Amazon gets most of the info they need to reach out to the supplier.

          Yes, I already mentioned drop shipping as a possibility. The solution is, don't do that. There's nothing insidious about using public information that people simply hand to you to climb the supply chain.

    • You say you "get" that other companies have in-house brands, but I don't think you actually do, given that you're suggesting Amazon is doing something different—something "insidious"—when really its no different than what everyone else has been doing all along.

      Whether we're talking Walmart, Sears, Kroger, or pretty much any other national or regional chain, they all have access to the data you're talking about, and they're all leveraging it in the exact same way when they launch their puffed pic

  • I don't care if Amazon has its own labels.

    What I care about is when I buy a product and come to suspect later that that the company selling it didn't have any intention of shipping the order. They presumaby just deceived Amazon into passing the order to them so they can collect the money upon feigning shipping the goods using apparently fake tracking numbers and hope that they don't always have to refund the money.

    I have to wonder how many people actually follow through and claim their money back, presuma

    • I've seen a lot of those in the past couple of months. It's some new seller come in with a really low price. I don't know why Amazon allows these sellers on the system. I've had one item that hasn't shown up but it wasn't from someone selling at an obviously scam price. I got my money back no problems from Amazon.

      Now I won't buy anything from Amazon that isn't from them or fulfilled by them meaning that they have item in their warehouse. The great thing about buying something from another seller but fulfill

  • Nobody noticed the upside-down flag on the guy's hat (or does nobody RTFA around here? ...oh... yeah it's /.).

    U.S. CODE. Title 4, Chapter 1. 8 "Respect for Flag" -- (a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

  • Here is the final stage of offshoring manufacturing. Billions were made by importers who did not directly manufacture, but instead contracted the manufacture of their products to overseas manufacturers.

    This is the warning shot - if you are successful doing this, Amazon is coming for you. You will do the market research, product development and marketing - then Amazon will simply take the business from you.

    Any business that does not own its manufacturing and storefront is at risk.

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