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)
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of the organisational and ownership structure of John Lewis?
- How would you classify this new strategy?
- How do you think this new strategy will benefit John Lewis in terms of its market share, revenue and profit?
- Is it likely that John Lewis will be able to target new customers with this new convenience store strategy?
- 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?
Business performance is always affected by the economy and we can always look at the economic theory to explain why profits rise and fall. Some companies prosper during recession, whereas others decline and the key is to understand the economics behind the data. This blog takes a look at the performance of a variety of companies and asks you to think about the economic theory behind it.
The world of betting has grown significantly and the profits of companies in this market, while certainly linked to economic performance, is also dependent on sport results. Paddy Power has announced pre-tax profits of €141m for 2013, an increase from €139.2m, despite sporting results causing profit performance to fall. On the part of football clubs, Liverpool FC saw a loss emerge for the 2012-2013 financial year, whereas Newcastle’s profits rose by 900% to £9.9m. What factors can explain the vastly different performance (off and on the pitch) of these two clubs?
In the USA, Radio Shack has been forced to close 1100 stores. This is, in part, as a response to a change in the way we are shopping. More and more consumers are purchasing goods online and Radio Shack is therefore experiencing growing competition from online retailers. Sales fell by 10% last year and even during the fourth quarter sales continued to decline.
Companies based in the largest economy in Europe have also experienced declines in performance, showing that a strong performing country doesn’t imply the same for companies operating in it. RWE, Germany’s biggest energy provider, has not made a loss since 1949. However, in 2013, this company posted its first annual loss in over 60 years: a loss of £2.28bn. With energy being in constant demand and criticism being levelled at UK energy providers for the high profits they’re making, the economics behind these data is important.
In better news for a company, Thorntons has boasted a significant increase in pre-tax profits, with much of this due to strong trading in the months leading up to Christmas and a sensible business strategy, involving selling more in supermarkets. Thorntons has cut its number of stores, but its profitable position has been saved by a good business strategy and this is going to lead to significant investment by the company.
Another strong performance was recorded by Berkshire Hathaway, an investment firm run by Warren Buffett. The company made a profit of £11.6bn in 2013, a significant increase on its 2012 performance. It is the insurance, rail and energy parts of the business that have contributed to the big increase in profits.
These are just some recent examples of data on business performance and your job is to think about the economic theory that can be used to explain the varying performance of different companies.
Liverpool announce annual loss of £50m in new club accounts Guardian, David Conn (4/3/14)
Thorntons makes biggest manufacturing investment for 25 years Telegraph, Natalie Thomas (3/3/14)
Thorntons cashes in on the snowman Independent, Simon Neville (3/3/14)
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway sees record profit BBC News (2/3/14)
Newcastle says ‘player trading’ helped increase profits to £9.9m BBC Sport (25/2/14)
RWE posts first annual net loss for over 60 years BBC News (4/3/14)
UK among RWE woes as it posts first annual loss since 1949 The Telegraph, Denise Roland (4/3/14)
Germany’s RWE slides into €2.8bn net loss for 2013 Financial Times, Jeevan Vasagar (4/3/14)
John Menzies profits hit by drop in magazine sales BBC News (4/3/14)
Fresnillo profits drop as gold prices and production falls The Telegraph, Olivia Goldhill (4/3/14)
Glencore 2013 profit rises 20% as copper production gains Bloomberg, Jesse Riseborough (4/3/14)
- In each of the cases above, explain the economic theory that can be used to explain the performance of the respective company.
- To what extent is a change in the market structure of an industry a contributing factor to the change in company performance?
- To what extent do you think a company’s performance is dependent on the performance of the economy in which it operates?
- Are the profits of a company a good measure of success? What else could be used?
I am an avid tennis fan and have spent many nights and in the last 10 days had many early mornings (3am), where I have been glued to the television, watching in particular Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open. Tennis is one of the biggest sports worldwide and generates huge amounts of revenue through ticket sales, clothing and other accessories, sponsorship, television rights and many other avenues. When I came across the BBC article linked below, I thought it would make an excellent blog!
There are many aspects of tennis (and of every other sport) that can be analysed from a Business and Economics stance. With the cost of living having increased faster than wages, real disposable income for many households is at an all-time low. Furthermore, we have so many choices today in terms of what we do – the entertainment industry has never been so diverse. This means that every form of entertainment, be it sport, music, cinema, books or computer games, is in competition. And then within each of these categories, there’s further competition: do you go to the football or the tennis? Do you save up for one big event and go to nothing else, or watch the big event on TV and instead go to several other smaller events? Tennis is therefore competing in a highly competitive sporting market and a wider entertainment market. The ATP Executive Chairman and President said:
We’ve all got to understand the demands on people’s discretionary income are huge, they are being pulled in loads of different avenues – entertainment options of film, music, sport – so we just need to make sure that our market share remains and hopefully grows as well.
As we know from economic analysis, product differentiation and advertising are key and tennis is currently in a particularly great era when it comes to drawing in the fans, with four global superstars.
However, tennis and all sports are about more than just bringing in the fans to the live events. Sponsorship deals are highly lucrative for players and, in this case, for the ATP and WTA tennis tours. It is lucrative sponsorship deals which create prize money worth fighting for, which help to draw in the best players and this, in turn, helps to draw in the fans and the TV companies.
With technological development, all sports are accessible by wider audiences and tennis is making the most of the fast growth in digital media. Looking at the packaging of tour events and how best to generate revenues through TV rights is a key part of strategic development for the ATP. It goes a long way to showing how even one of the world’s most successful sporting tours is always looking at ways to innovate and adapt to changing economic and social times. Tennis is certainly a sport that has exploited all the opportunities it has had and, through successful advertising, well-organised events and fantastic players, it has created a formidable product, which can compete with any other entertainment product out there. As evidence, the following fact was observed in the Telegraph article:
A 1400 megawatt spike – equivalent to 550,000 kettles being boiled – was recorded at around 9.20pm on that day [6/7/08] as Nadal lifted the trophy. The surge is seen as an indicator of millions viewing the final and then rushing to the kitchen after it is over. The national grid felt a bigger surge after the Nadal victory even than at half time during the same year’s Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea.
Tennis top guns driving ATP revenues BBC News, Bill Wilson (20/1/14)
The top 20 sporting moments of the noughties: The 2008 Wimbledon Final The Telegraph, Mark Hodgkinson (14/12/09)
The global tennis industry in numbers BBC News (22/1/14)
- How does tennis generate its revenue?
- In which market structure would you place the sport of tennis?
- What are the key features of the ATP tour which have allowed it to become so successful? Can other sports benefit from exploiting similar things?
- How has technological development created more opportunities for tennis to generate increased revenues?
- Can game theory be applied to tennis and, if so, in what ways?
- Why does sponsorship of the ATP tour play such an important role in the business of tennis?
- How important is (a) product differentiation and (b) advertising in sport?
Technology and the Internet have both good and bad sides, whether it’s for businesses or consumers. Many opportunities have been created, such as access to global markets, cheaper and easier transport and communication and better sources of supply. But with this opportunity comes threats, especially for businesses. We’ve seen the emergence of new online-based companies and in some cases these have contributed to the demise of other firms. In this News Item we look at the impact on the newspaper industry.
Media is one industry that has been significantly affected by technological developments. Newspaper readership has been in decline for many years and this is even the case for the most widely read UK paper – The Daily Telegraph. However, according to Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, it’s not the end of the industry:
It is an industry in crisis, but I don’t accept it is an industry in terminal decline.
More and more information has become freely available online and just as we would expect in any other sector, the newspaper industry has had to respond. To keep their readers, newspapers across the world provide thousands of articles on all topics on their websites. But if news can be accessed freely, why bother purchasing a newspaper? This is the problem facing the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail etc – the number of newspapers sold has declined and thus so have revenues and profits.
One option is to charge consumers for reading the news by introducing a subscription to the online articles. The Financial Times already charges a fee to view articles online beyond a certain number and The Telegraph is soon to follow suit. Back in 2010, The Times and Sunday Times launched their new websites, which charged readers for viewing articles. The model being adopted by The Telegraph is a little different, as a certain number of articles can be viewed for free before a price must be paid. International readers are already charged to view online material, but these new charges will apply to UK readers. With so much competition facing newspapers, the number of readers for The Telegraph will undoubtedly decline, but with newspaper readership falling, revenues must come from somewhere. Tony Gallagher has said:
We want to develop a closer rapport with our digital audience in the UK, and we intend to unveil a number of compelling digital products for our loyal subscribers in the months ahead.
Differentiating the product is going to be essential for any newspaper that begins charging, as with so much information available online for free, they have to ensure they keep their readers. Establishing loyalty will be crucial. The following articles consider this change.
Telegraph extends paywall to UK readers BBC News (26/3/13)
The Telegraph: subscribe to Britain’s finest journalism The Telegraph (26/3/13)
Telegraph to put up metered paywall Guardian, Roy Greenslade (26/3/13)
The sun joins Telegraph in charging website users The Guardian, Lisa O’Carroll and Roy Greenslade (26/3/13)
Oh how Times are charging Sloman News Site March 2010
Telegraph introduces UK paywall Marketing Week, Lara O’Reilly (26/3/13)
Washington Post announces porous paywall Journalism.co.uk, Sarah Marshall (19/3/13)
Washington Post latest newspaper to put faith in paywalls The Guardian, Dominic Rushe (19/3/13)
Ireland’s newspapers suffer hard times Financial Times, Jamie Smythe (24/3/13)
Washington Post to start charging for website Wall Street Journal, Keach Hagey (18/3/13)
- Where would you put newspapers on the product life cycle? Explain your answer.
- How would you assess the effect of the development of technology and the internet for newspapers?
- Have readers of newspapers benefited from the internet?
- How might estimates of elasticity have been used to make the decision to charge to view online articles?
- Which consumers will be affected most by this new strategy?
- How might companies that don’t charge for online access benefit from this new strategy?
- Would you continue to read articles from The Times, the Financial Times, The Telegraph, etc. linked from this site if you had to pay to access them? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How much would you be prepared to pay to access online articles? How are the concepts of utility and consumer surplus relevant here?
- What effect will the paywall have on The Telegraph’s revenues and profits? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.
Market trading has existed for centuries and in many respects it hasn’t changed very much. One thing that has developed is the means of exchange. Goods used to be traded for other goods – for example 1 pig for 4 chickens! But then money was developed as a means of exchange and then came cheques and plastic.
However, for many market traders, accepting credit and debit cards is relatively costly. It involves paying a monthly contract, which for many traders is simply not worthwhile, based on the quantity and value of the transactions. But, for many customers using debit or credit cards is the preferred method of payment and the fact that some traders only accept cash can be a deterrent to them making purchases and this therefore reduces the sales of the market traders.
But, with advances in technology a new way of paying has emerged. Small card readers can now be plugged into iphones, ipads, other tablets and smartphones. By putting a customer’s card into this device customers can then pay by card and either sign for their purchase or use the phone to enter their security details. There are plan for these companies to offer chip and pin technology to further ease payment by card on market stalls. The traders pay a small commission per transaction, but aside from that, the initial start-up cost is minimal and it is likely to encourage more customers to use markets. Jim Stewart, the Director of a firm that has begun using this technology said:
I think it’s definitely going to take off, the world is going that way … The money has always appeared in my bank account, no transactions have been declined, my accountant is happy, it’s all been good.
Some customers have raised concerns about the security of these transactions, as they have to put their cards into someone else’s ipad. However, traders have said that there are no risks and that customers can be sent a receipt for their purchase. The following few articles look at this latest (and other) technological developments.
Smartphone card payment system seeks small firms BBC News, Rob Howard (19/1/13)
POS Trends: What’s new for 2013 Resource News (17/1/13)
Payments by text message service to launch in UK in Spring 2014 BBC News (15/1/13)
- What are fixed cost and why does having a traditional card payment machine represent a fixed cost for a firm?
- How might this new technology affect a firm’s sales and profits?
- Will there be an increase in the firm’s variable costs from adopting this technology?
- Using a cost and revenue diagram, put your answers to questions 1 – 3 into practice and show how it will shift them and thus how the equilibrium may change for a market trader.
- What are the properties of money that allow it to be a good medium of exchange?
- How will this increased use of debit and credit cards affect the demand for money? Use a diagram to illustrate your answer.