Feeling the squeeze? Stop buying brands

brandless items
A sample of Brandless products that are available for purchase online.

Brands are familiar, but often expensive. A new online retailer thinks it can offer shoppers big savings by ditching branded goods altogether.

Brandless launched last month with a promise to sell only "brand-free" products for just $3 an item.

Its product range includes kitchen knives, olive oil, toilet cleaner and facial moisturizer. The items come in simple packaging with a white label containing key product information.

American serial entrepreneur Tina Sharkey developed Brandless with co-founder Ido Leffler, raising about $50 million from investors before the website launched.

Sharkey says they created Brandless to help shoppers avoid the hidden costs of buying a big brand. They even trademarked the term "BrandTax" to describe those costs.

Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler
Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler in front of their Brandless products.

Brandless sources all its products from independent manufacturers and sends them directly to distribution centers. It focuses on natural and organic items at affordable prices.

It says it can pass on the savings it makes by not having any brick-and-mortar stores.

"People are really resonating with the idea that this is affordable, accessible, and the kind of values they want at the prices they can actually afford," said Sharkey.

Brandless shipped to 48 U.S. states in the first week of operation, she added.

Sharkey estimates consumers will save an average of 40% when buying Brandless products compared to top household brands of a similar quality.

brandless kitchen gadgets
Brandless markets a large range of kitchen items.

Buying into the brand

The unbranded concept has been tried before by Japanese retailer MUJI. The name is derived from the term "Mujirushi Ryohin," which translates as "no brand, quality goods."

MUJI is now a popular brand in its own right.

brandless blueberry flax granola
The white labels on Brandless items are designed to be plain and simple.

Whether or not Brandless becomes another big name, Sharkey insists the company is doing something different.

"Brands still have this false narrative: cartoons and animated characters that represent them, or actors on television that are riding white horses on beaches, I mean, what is that?" she said. "People want the transparency of knowing who they're doing business with."

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