Just as a segment of shoppers depends on private labels to make ends meet, retailers are counting on their own brands to take back control amidst rising retail prices and fierce competition, said respondents to the eighth annual Survey of Center Store Performance, conducted by Baking Management’s sister publication, Supermarket News. As more than one-third of private-label marketers invest in new product innovations, more prominent shelf placement and an increase in displays are driving penetration at the store level. Half of retailers have gone so far as to rationalize national-brand SKUs during the past year, and 42 percent expect to do so in at least one category in the future. In addition to maximizing margins, the strategy is one of differentiation. Retailers hope to fend off Wal-Mart–the biggest threat to center store sales according to 45.3 percent of retailers–and dollar stores, who with their expanded consumables selection, threaten to erode share.