Why Everything You Buy Looks Like It Was Made By a Hipster In Brooklyn
From Target to ShopRite, major retailers are co-opting muted pastels, serif fonts, and ampersands
At a slightly run-down grocery store at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, the paper towel shelf is in the midst of a hipster makeover. Next to reams of shouty, Crayola-colored packs of Bounty, calmly sits a new brand of paper towel that looks like it was dreamed up by either the millennial marketing whizzes at Glossier or an Etsy crafter from Portland. It’s Paperbird, styled with a lowercase “p” and accented with a feminine hand-sketched silhouette of a perched creature, all packaged in soothing tones of cream and lavender.
Paperbird is not, however, some homespun artisanal cleaning-products brand. It’s the brainchild of ShopRite, the New Jersey–based grocery store chain that operates nearly 300 stores across the Northeast. Store-hatched brands are hardly a new concept, but as retailers wake up to the shrinking margins of selling other people’s stuff — and competing with private-label savants like Trader Joe’s — they’re aggressively building up or overhauling their own brand arsenal. “I’m not sure I know of many retailers who can avoid it,” says Brian Shoroff, president of the Private Label Manufacturers Association.
ShopRite announced last month that by 2021, it will replace many of its generic-looking ShopRite-labeled products with some 3,500 new branded private-label items. Paperbird, one of the company’s first new brands, debuted in November with a line of paper goods, which includes napkins and toilet paper. Store managers are already flaunting the new brand by dressing in Paperbird-branded T-shirts (“Clean in Peace”). An ad campaign on commuter trains features slogans that could be mistaken for some venture-backed direct-to-consumer e-commerce startup promoting self-care. “Namast’ay Calm. Napkin On,” reads one spotted in the wild.