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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Historically, generic products were associated with low prices and no frills. But fancy "generic" companies like Brandless, Italic and Hims are selling consumers a modern definition: affordable prices and better quality and experience.

When San Francisco-based Brandless debuted its online store in 2017, it aimed to provide items that are both affordable (everything is $3) and high quality. By sourcing its products directly it cuts out what it calls the “brand tax."

  • Public Goods, an online retailer based in New York, has taken a similar approach, offering select items without a retail mark-up. Unlike Brandless, its products are exclusively available to members, who pay a $59 annual fee.
  • Italic, which sells high-end goods like leather bags, touts the designer brands its affiliated manufacturers have worked with.
  • Hims focuses on prescription erectile disfunction medicine but also sells a range of men’s health products including hair loss treatments and skincare.

Because these retailers can’t rely on the reputation of other brands, gaining their customers’ trust is critical to making this model work.

  • “You can’t actually control the product quality and the product experience when you’re selling somebody else’s product,” Hims founder and CEO Andrew Dudum, whose company touts that it designs and formulates much of its products, tells Axios.

Of course, this isn’t an entirely new approach—Trader Joe’s mastered exactly the same tactics: selling fewer items, many of them manufactured by companies that sell nearly the exact same product.

The bottom line: “People want more value than just a cheaper price,” says Red Antler CEO JB Osborne, whose brand agency counts a number of these direct-to-consumer retailers among its clients, including Brandless.

Special report: The future of retail

Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify that Hims formulates and designs much of the products it sells.

Go deeper

U.S. cites Ukrainian oligarch for involvement "in significant corruption"

State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday designated former Ukrainian public official Ihor Kolomoyskyy as an individual involved "in significant corruption."

Why it matters: The designation prohibits Kolomoysky and his immediate family from traveling to the U.S. and signals that the Biden administration will help Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his fight against oligarchs and entrenched corruption. U.S. authorities view Kolomoyskyy as among the most powerful of the oligarchs.

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

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