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Posts Tagged ‘growth strategy’

A new direction for an old retailer

When you think about John Lewis, you think of a large department store. It is a department store celebrating its 150th anniversary. Many large retailers, such as John Lewis, have expanded their product range throughout their history and have grown organically, moving into larger and more prominent locations. What’s the latest location? St Pancras station.

The idea of a click-and-collect store has grown in popularity over the past decade. With more and more people working and leading very busy lives, together with the growth of online shopping, it is the convenience of this type of purchase which has led to many retailers developing click-and-collect. Indeed, for John Lewis, 33% of its internet sales do come through click-and-collect. However, John Lewis is going a step further and its new strategy is reminiscent of companies like Tesco. If you just need to pop into Tesco to get some milk, you’re likely to go to the local Tesco express. The first mover advantage of Tesco in this market was vital.

John Lewis is unusual in that it is owned by its employees and this ownership structure has proved successful. Despite a long history, John Lewis has moved with the times and this latest strategy is further evidence of that. In today’s world, convenience is everything and that is one of the key reasons behind its new St Pancras convenience store. It will allow customers to purchase items and then collect them on their way to and from work – click-and-commute, but it will also provide customers with an easily accessible place to buy electronic equipment and a range of household goods. The retail director, Andrew Murphy said:

In the battleground of convenience, we are announcing a new way for commuters to shop with us … Customers spend a huge amount of time commuting, and our research shows that making life easier and shopping more convenient is their top priority.

This appears to be the first of many smaller convenience stores, enabling John Lewis to gain a presence in seemingly impossible places, given the normal size of such Department stores. For many people, commuting to and from work often involves waiting at transport hubs – one of the big downsides to not driving. So it seems sensible for such an established retailer to take advantage of commuters waiting for their train or plane to arrive, who have time to kill. The following articles consider this new direction for an old retailer.

John Lewis to open St Pancras convenience store BBC News (2/5/14)
John Lewis thinks small with convenience store The Guardian, Zoe Wood (2/5/14)
John Lewis to trial convenience store click-and-collect format at St Pancras Retail Week, Ben Cooper (2/5/14)
Why is click and collect proving so popular? BBC News, Phil Dorrell (2/5/14)
The rise of click and collect for online shoppers BBC News, Phil Dorrell (2/5/14)

Questions

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the organisational and ownership structure of John Lewis?
  2. How would you classify this new strategy?
  3. How do you think this new strategy will benefit John Lewis in terms of its market share, revenue and profit?
  4. Is it likely that John Lewis will be able to target new customers with this new convenience store strategy?
  5. How important is a first-mover advantage when it comes to retail? Using game theory, can you create a game whereby there is clear first mover advantage to John Lewis?
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WhatsApp Doc?

Facebook has announced that it’s purchasing the messaging company WhatsApp. It is paying $19 billion in cash and shares, a sum that dwarfs other acquisitions of start-up companies in the app market. But what are the reasons for the acquisition and how will it affect users?

WhatsApp was founded less than five years ago and has seen massive growth and now has some 450 million active users, 70% of whom use it daily. This compares with Twitter’s 240 million users. An average of one million new users are signing up to WhatsApp each day. As the Wall Street Journal article, linked below, states:

Even by the get-big-fast standards of Silicon Valley, WhatsApp’s story is remarkable. The company, founded in 2009 by Ukrainian Jan Koum and American Brian Acton, reached 450 million users faster than any company in history, wrote Jim Goetz, a partner at investor Sequoia Capital.

Facebook had fewer than 150 million users after its fourth year, one third that of WhatsApp in the same time period.

Yet, despite its large user base, WhatsApp has just 55 employees, including 32 engineers.

For the user, WhatsApp offers a cheap service (free for the first year and just a 99¢ annual fee thereafter). There are no charges for sending or receiving text, pictures and videos. It operates on all mobile systems and carries no ads. It also offers privacy – once sent, messages are deleted from the company’s servers and are thus not available to government and other agencies trying to track people.

With 450 million current active users, this means that revenue next year will not be much in excess of $450 million. Thus it would seem that unless Facebook changes WhatsApp’s charging system or allows advertising (which it says it won’t) or sees massive further growth, there must have been reasons other than simple extra revenue for the acquisition.

Other possible reasons are investigated in the videos and articles below. One is to restrict competition which threatens Facebook’s own share of the messaging market: competition that has seen young people move away from Facebook, which they see is becoming more of a social media platform for families and all generations, not just for the young.

Videos and podcasts
Facebook pays billions for WhatsApp Messenger smartphone service Deutsche Welle, Manuel Özcerkes (19/2/14)
Facebook’s WhatsApp buy no bargain Reuters, Peter Thal Larsen (20/2/14)
Facebook Agrees To Buy WhatsApp For $19bn Sky News, Greg Milam (20/2/14)
Facebook Eliminates Competitor With WhatsApp Bloomberg TV, Om Malik, David Kirkpatrick and Paul Kedrosky (20/2/14)
Why WhatsApp Makes Perfect Sense for Facebook Bloomberg TV, Om Malik, David Kirkpatrick and Paul Kedrosky (20/2/14)
Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19bn BBC News, Mike Butcher (20/2/14)
Is Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp a desperate move? CNBC News, Rob Enderle (19/2/14)
Facebook’s $19bn WhatsApp deal ‘unjustifiable’ BBC Today Programme, Larry Magid (20/2/14)

Articles
Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in deal shocker ReutersGerry Shih and Sarah McBride (20/2/14)
Facebook to Pay $19 Billion for WhatsApp Wall Street Journal, Reed Albergotti, Douglas MacMillan and Evelyn M. Rusli (19/2/14)
Facebook to buy WhatsApp for $19bn The Telegraph, Katherine Rushton (19/2/14)
Facebook buys WhatsApp: Mark Zuckerberg explains why The Telegraph (19/2/14)
WhatsApp deal: for Mark Zuckerberg $19bn is cheap to nullify the threat posed by messaging application The Telegraph, Katherine Rushton (20/2/14)
Why did Facebook buy WhatsApp? TechRadar, Matt Swider (20/2/14)
What is WhatsApp? What has Facebook got for $19bn? The Guardian, Alex Hern (20/2/14)
Facebook to buy messaging app WhatsApp for $19bn BBC News (20/2/14)
WhatsApp – is it worth it? BBC News, Rory Cellan-Jones (20/2/14)
Facebook buys WhatsApp: what the analysts say The Telegraph (19/2/14)
Facebook ‘dead and buried’ as teenagers switch to WhatsApp and Snapchat – because they don’t want mum and dad to see their embarrassing pictures Mail Online (27/12/13)
Facebook and WhatsApp: Getting the messages The Economist (22/2/14)

Questions

  1. Are Facebook and WhatsApp substitutes or complements, or neither?
  2. What does Facebook stand to gain from the acquisition of WhatsApp? Is the deal a largely defensive one for Facebook?
  3. Has Facebook paid too much for WhatsApp? What information would help you answer this question?
  4. Would it be a good idea for Facebook to build in the WhatsApp functionality into the main Facebook platform or would it be better to keep the two products separate by keeping WhatsApp as a self contained company?
  5. What effects will the acquisition have on competition in the social media and messaging market? Is this good for the user?
  6. Will the deal attract the attention of Federal competition regulators in the USA? If so, why; if not, why not?
  7. What are the implications for Google and Twitter?
  8. Find out and explain what happened to the Facebook share price after the acquisition was announced.
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No such thing as bad publicity?

The trendy US fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch entered the UK in 2007 with the opening of a flagship store close to Savile Row in London. Located in the upmarket Mayfair area of London, Savile Row is famous for its traditional men’s tailors.

Recently Abercrombie & Fitch decided to go one step further by opening a childrenswear store directly on Savile Row. This move upset the local retailers and was met with protests.

This was just the latest in a history of controversy surrounding Abercrombie & Fitch which has included a product boycott and a lawsuit concerning employment issues. Should all this bad publicity be a concern for the company?

We expect tastes to be one of the key determinants of demand. If taste for a company’s product declines, its demand curve shifts to the left. This means it can sell less at any given price and consequently will have a knock-on effect on profits. Somewhat surprisingly, therefore, the PR expert, Mark Borkowski, quoted in the Guardian article above, suggests that all this adverse publicity may have in fact helped the company because:

“…the focus is on the brand. They’ve got a very keen identity of who they are, what they want, who they want to consume their products, and they’ve stuck to it.”

It is also clear that the company is very aware of the importance of protecting its brand – even going as far as paying television actors NOT to wear their clothes! Abercrombie & Fitch has also been reluctant to cut its prices during the current recession, perhaps because of a fear of harming its brand.

Abercrombie & Fitch with its ‘crappy clothes’ threatens staid Savile Row Observer, Euan Ferguson (11/03/12)
Savile Row cannot live in the past Guardian, Charlie Porter (24/04/12)
Sorry chaps, Abercrombie & Fitch simply doesn’t fit Savile Row Guardian, Gustav Temple (24/04/12)
Savile unrest … the tailors who want to stop Abercrombie & Fitch London Evening Standard, Josh Sims (27/04/12)

Questions

  1. What are the distinctive features of the Abercrombie & Fitch brand?
  2. What are the key features of competition in this industry?
  3. Why might Abercrombie & Fitch be keen to open up a store on Savile Row?
  4. Why might the local tailors object to Abercrombie & Fitch opening a store nearby?
  5. Why do you think negative publicity appears to have little effect on Abercrombie & Fitch?
  6. Why do you think television coverage could harm the Abercrombie & Fitch brand?
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Dreaming of a white Christmas

This autumn has been one of the mildest on record. Whilst this may be very nice for most of us, certain industries have been suffering. For example, gas and electricity consumption is down as people delay turning on their heating. One sector particularly badly hit has been clothing. Sales of winter clothes are substantially down and many retailers are longing for colder weather to boost their sales.

Of course, this is not helped by consumer incomes. With inflation at around 5% and average (pre-tax) weekly earnings currently rising by less than 2%, real incomes are falling. In fact over the year, even nominal disposable incomes are down 2.1%, given the rise in national insurance and income tax. And the problem of falling incomes is compounded by worries over the future state of the economy – whether it will go back into recession, with further falls in real income and rises in unemployment.

It’s no wonder that retailers are longing for some cold weather and for their customers to return from the seaside or their garden barbecues to the shopping malls. Look out for the ‘sales’ signs: they’re beginning to spring up as desperate retailers seek to attract wary customers.

Webcast
Retailers slash prices in Christmas build-up BBC News, Tim Muffett (25/11/11)

Articles
Winter woes: warm weather means shoppers aren’t buying as much Guardian, Zoe Wood (21/11/11)
Shoppers urged to be savvy as Christmas sales last for weeks The Telegraph, Victoria Ward (21/11/11)

Data
Earnings tables: Labour Market Statistics ONS (November 2011)
Personal Income and Wealth ONS
Price Indices and Inflation ONS
Personal Inflation Calculator (PIC) ONS

Questions

  1. Identify the determinants of demand for winter clothing.
  2. How responsive is demand likely to be to these determinants (a) over a period of a few weeks; (b) over a period of a few months?
  3. What factors should a retailer take into account when deciding whether to make pre-Christmas discounts?
  4. Assume that you are employed but are afraid of losing your job in a few months’ time. How would this affect your consumption of (a) seasonal goods; (b) durable goods; (c) day-to-day goods?
  5. What longer-term strategies could retailers adopt if they predict tough trading conditions over the next two or three years?
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Nokia’s phone battle

Nokia is finding out just how competitive the phone industry is, as it sees its third quarter figures come in at a loss. Google and Apple have seen their market shares rise and this has had an adverse effect on the Finnish company, Nokia. This goes some way to backing up the job losses seen earlier in the year, when 7000 jobs were cut and there was a re-allocation of workers towards ‘smartphones’.

Despite Nokia’s disappointing results in this sector, it has seen growth in its sales of other more simple phones, illustrating its ability to focus on this aspect of the market. Its sales were higher than forecast at 107 million handsets in the third quarter, showing some signs of a changing trend for the firm. However, with competition ever increasing, Nokia will need to consider its future strategy very carefully.

Nokia reports lower-than-estimated loss as profit forecast for phone unit Bloomberg, Diana Ben-Aaron (20/10/11)
Nokia swings to loss in third quarter BBC News (20/10/11)
Nokia boosted by sales of cheap handsets Financial Times, Daniel Thomas (20/10/11)
Nokia beats forecasts with sales of 107m phones Guardian, Juliette Garside and Charles Arthur (20/10/11)
Nokia prepares for ‘solid’ windows phone launch Telegraph, Matt Warman (25/10/11)

Questions

  1. How would you describe Nokia’s strategy of focusing on cheaper and simpler phones?
  2. Would you say Nokia’s strategy is sensible? What factors will determine its success?
  3. How have Apple and Google managed to expand their market share and become serious competitors to firms like Nokia?
  4. Into which market structure would you classify the phone industry?
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M&A activity: surge or blip?

August is usually a quiet month for mergers and acquisitions. But not this August! As the linked Independent article below states:

Korea National Oil Corporation’s £1.87bn hostile bid for Dana Petroleum yesterday was just the latest in a surge of activity taking merger and acquisition (M&A) levels to a nine-month high.

Despite edgy economic data from the US, global deal-making has already topped $197bn (£127bn) so far this month, and is on course to beat the August record of $260bn set in 2006, according to Thomson Reuters. This week’s $89.8bn total is the highest weekly total since early November.

During the global recession of 2008/9, M&A activity slumped. In 2007, global M&As were worth $4162bn. In 2009 they were worth only $2059bn. Not only were companies cautious of acquiring other companies in a period of great economic uncertainty, but finance for deals was hard to obtain. Now, with many companies having cut costs and having much healthier balance sheets, they are in a position to bid for other companies. And banks too are much more able and willing to provide the finance to support takeovers.

So does this signify a continuing surge in M&A activity? Or are the August figures likely to be a ‘blip’, with fears of a double-dip recession dampening any renewed takeover fever? The articles below look at the recent cases and at the factors influencing current M&A activity.

Articles
Stock markets catch deal fever as M&A booms again Independent, Sarah Arnott (21/8/10)
BHP, Intel, RSA shatter usual August M&A lull Reuters, Quentin Webb (20/8/10)
Global M&A volume could be highest in August International Business Times, Surojit Chatterjee (21/8/10)
Mergers and acquisitions mania disrupts bankers’ summer breaks Guardian, Elena Moya (21/8/10)
Merger mania predicted as cash-rich firms stalk takeover targets Observer, Richard Wachman (22/8/10)
M&A Signal Higher Stock Prices Ahead Minyanville, Terry Woo (20/8/10)
From slowest to busiest TodayOnline (21/8/10)

Data and Reports
International
The era of globalized M&A: Winds of change Thomson Retuers and J.P.Morgan (June 2009)
Preliminary M&A Financial Press Release 2Q10 Thomson Reuters (25/6/10)
World Investment Report 2010: Annex Tables United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (see tables 9–16)
UK data
Mergers and Acquisitions involving UK companies Office for National Statistics
Mergers & Acquisitions data Office for National Statistics
Mergers and acquisitions involving UK companies: 1st Quarter 2010 Office for National Statistics (2/6/10)
Mergers and Acquisitions Tables Office for National Statistics

Questions

  1. Identify the reasons why firms want to take over other firms.
  2. Why does M&A activity tend to increase during a period of economic boom and decline during a recession?
  3. What is likely to happen to M&A activity over the coming months?
  4. Exmamine two recent mergers or acquistions and explain why the acquiring company was keen to take over the other company, or why the two companies were keen to merge. Were there any economies of scale to be gained? Would the merger increase the acquiring company’s market power?
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Online SMEs come of age

‘eBay has declared that Britain’s small businesses have “come of age” online, after reporting that the number of its traders who are turning over £1m a year had nearly doubled over the last 12 months.’

So begins the linked article below from the Guardian. Unlike other small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), many of which did not survive the recession, the number of successful online SMEs is increasing and their survival rates are generally high. According to eBay, some 25,000 people have set up business on its site since the recession and it is predicted that 127 will have a turnover of over £1 million in 2010 (up from 66 in 2009).

So what is it about the online environment that helps small business to develop and thrive? Does going down the e-commerce route avoid many of the pitfalls of traditional business models? And does it have any specific pitfalls of its own? Read the articles below and then attempt the questions that follow.

eBay doubles number of traders with turnover above £1m Guardian, Graeme Wearden (21/8/10)
Why e-commerce IPOs will soon be the smarter buy VentureBeat, Owen Thomas (18/8/10)
Small businesses prosper in eBay’s millionaires’ club InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (21/8/10)
Ecommerce technology is retail investment priority: report InternetRetailing, Chloe Rigby (13/8/10)
Move into ecommerce could transform the Scottish economy Sunday Herald, Colin Donald (22/8/10)
Small businesses ‘tend to be a risk’ to lenders BBC Today Programme (23/8/10)

Questions

  1. What advantages does e-commerce have for SMEs: (a) in the startup phase; (b) over the long term?
  2. What are meant by ‘network economies’? Does eBay offer such economies to SMEs?
  3. Follow the links in the above articles to study the experience of two specific online SMEs and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business strategies.
  4. What considerations might an SME take into account that is currently trading on eBay or Amazon in deciding whether to set up its own website and trade directly from that?
  5. Why may a move into e-commerce prove particularly beneficial to the Scottish economy? Would this apply to all online SMEs or only certain types?
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Economic objectives for a warming world

Economic growth is normally seen as the most important long-term macroeconomic objective. Without economic growth, so it is argued, people will be unable to achieve rising living standards. But, according to Nicholas Stern, Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics, former head of the Government Economic Service, former World Bank chief economist and author of the 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, countries will need to reconsider making growth the goal of their societies.

Speaking to students at the People’s University of Beijing, Lord Stern warned that unless substantial cuts were made in carbon emissions, the effects of global warming would have devastating effects on people’s lives. As the Stern report stated, “Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms.” The implications are that countries must making cutting carbon emissions a priority and must reconsider their growth strategies. In his speech he said that “Beijing should shift the economy away from heavy industry, manufacturing for exports and other high-emission activities. Instead, it should focus more on domestic consumption, service industries and low-carbon technology.”

So should countries rethink their economic objectives? Is economic growth either a necessary or sufficient condition for an increase in human welfare? Read the articles and then consider the questions below.

World must help China shift to clean growth-Stern Reuters (11/9/09)
Stern Truths: Some Parts of China Have Western-Style Emissions Wall Street Journal (11/9/09)
Stern: Rich nations will have to forget about growth to stop climate change Guardian (11/9/09)
Stern words in Beijing Hot Topic (New Zealand) (13/9/09)

Questions

  1. Are the objectives of economic growth and tackling gobal warming necessarily incompatible?
  2. What would a low carbon growth strategy look like?
  3. What would you include in the opportunity costs of maintaining a high growth strategy compared with switching to a lower carbon, lower growth one?
  4. Consider whether economic growth is (a) a necessary condition; (b) a sufficient condition for a growth in the wellbeing of the human race.
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