Saturday, 25 April 2015

When we say fastest...

                                                                                                        Pic: Wim Schipper via Brilliant ads

(For added ooompf, why not slope the logo backwards?)

Friday, 24 April 2015

In a game where all eyes are on the profit ball, can Tesco afford to forget Net Margin?

Given that share price is driven by ROCE, in turn a result of  Net Margin times Capital Rotation, no one, especially share-incentivised senior management, will allow Tesco to long ignore the bottom line…

Tesco now has other priorities in terms of offer simplification, rebuilding of consumer and supplier trust, but ensuring adequate - at least 15% ROCE - rewards for risk will always be close to the surface.

The issue for cull-survival suppliers has to be not only contributing to Tesco Top Agenda items, but also finding ways of translating this support into bottom line impact.

Essentially, in terms of faster capital rotation, by simplifying their offer and cutting out over-lap and wastage, Tesco will be able to focus on optimising stockturn. This means that suppliers that can deliver more often in smaller quantities will be seen to benefit the company in terms of speed and availability.

By reducing the number of unprofitable (large) stores, and franchising off redundant space in remaining stores, Tesco will make their fixed assets more productive. In the short term, suppliers that can make the space work harder via in-store theatre will help….

This leaves Net Margin, with transfers from Back to Front margin an obvious option, unless Tesco can be persuaded to embrace supplier-driven alternatives…

Deep down the City does not care about Net Profit in itself, they know that a business can either be small margin, fast rotation, or big margin slow rotation. All they want is an acceptable overall result - ROCE - to justify risk and exposure, and invest in the share price.

Retailers and their suppliers will be left to deliver the rest… See how here

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Don't forget the money – but now it's all about consumer trust...

To us optimists, yesterday’s 5% fall in Tesco’s share price was hopefully the result of some profit-taking, with plenty of slow upside as the market absorbs the significance of the change in Tesco’s relationship with suppliers and shoppers…

No-one will ever be allowed to forget the money again, but the emphasis in now on rebuilding trust at both ends of the Tesco candle, and no taking of supplier-prisoners…. i.e. any tin-content issues will be ‘cullable’ offences

A reminder of the basics…
According to changingminds, trust is about:

1. Predictability
Trust means being able to predict what other people will do and what situations will occur i.e. less time spent second-guessing and checking compliance

2. Value exchange
Trust means making an exchange with someone when you do not have full knowledge about them, their intent and the things they are offering to you i.e. a simple buffer-free offer from both sides, with minimal just-in-case complexity

3. Delayed reciprocity
Trust means giving something now with an expectation that it will be repaid later i.e. no need to open the tin in the store

4. Exposed vulnerabilities
Trust means enabling other people to take advantage of your vulnerabilities - but expecting that they will not do so

How consumers manage trust
- Get it right, and they may tell a friend
- Get it wrong and they will certainly tell ten…

BTW, in case of any delay in achieving 100% trust-distribution, best to keep in mind that under the skin we are all third parties, however close the relationships…

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Another UK record for Tesco - How a £6.4bn loss will impact suppliers

By posting the biggest ever loss in UK business history, Tesco is hopefully making a final test of shareholders’ confidence in their turnaround.

Dave Lewis will have to provide more detail, but essentially he has three priorities:
- Regaining competitiveness
- Protecting & Strengthening the Balance Sheet
- Rebuilding trust and transparency in the business and the Tesco brand

Regaining competitiveness:
- Price-cuts in anybody’s language (Same offer, reduced SKUs, 100% on-shelf availability, and prices low enough to make a difference, possibly via the moves from Back to Front margin…?)

Protecting & Strengthening the Balance Sheet:
- Improve Current Ratio (i.e. Current Assets/Current Liabilities) i.e. reduce Stocks via smaller, more frequent deliveries, and increase cash.  An obvious move would be to increase trade creditors, but this would damage Tesco credibility in the current climate, and would be a breach with recent promises to pay smaller suppliers in 14 days.

- Improve Cash-to-debt ratio (i.e. combination of cash and short-term investments, divided by combination of short & long term debt) Tesco will attempt to generate cash surpluses in the business, and pay down debt, possibly via pressure on cost prices, cost-cutting, back-to-front margin moves, and stripping out anything that does not contribute to availability and customer service.

- Improve Debt-to-equity ratio (i.e. long-term debt divided by shareholder equity) Shareholder equity is a combination of share capital and retained earnings i.e. net operating profit after dividend. This is why Tesco is not paying a dividend at this point, in order to reinvest as much as possible of their £1.4bn operating profit into the business. In practice this route will prove too slow in significantly improving their debt-to-equity ratio, so expect more emphasis on driving down debt..i.e. asset sell-offs.

Rebuilding trust and transparency in the business and the Tesco brand
- Whatever the cost, everything left on Tesco’s post-cull shelves will deliver what it says on the tin, or more, or else...
- Tesco will anticipate the potential flak arising from the Which? super-complaint re in-store offer ‘confusion’ by going for transparency and genuine, sustainable competitiveness.
- It hopefully goes without saying that brand contents-reductions to disguise retail price increases are now off limits, as Tesco changes its corporate colours from blue & red to whiter-than-white. They have nothing more to lose…

In other words, hold on to your hat, its not over yet…

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Tesco property write-down - ‘official’ acknowledgement of the structural changes in UK retail

We all await - with bated breath - the extent of Tesco’s property write-down at Dave Lewis presentation of the annual results tomorrow. This will be the first official acknowledgement of the structural changes that have taken place in UK retailing, and at City estimates of £3bn+ the impact on Tesco’s Balance Sheet and the market will be fundamental.

...with other mults needing increasingly persuasive arguments for not following suit…

In round numbers, think 20% reduction in large space retail

Why the write-down?
As you know, large space UK retail works on the premise that sales per sq ft of £1,000 per annum are sustainable

Undershooting presents three alternatives:
  • Sell ‘em, Close ‘em or Convert ‘em…
  • Selling = ‘sell-off’ in an over-spaced market, Closing = write-off dilution of the bottom line, leaving fundamental Conversion as the only option…
  • Action: Amazon permitting, the way forward for the mults has to be via conversion of large outlets to collaborative ‘shopping centres’ based on partnerships with specialist retailers in non-food categories, leaving grocers to sell groceries…
In practice, this will mean retail partnerships based on a rental – % of sales combination, with  both measures focused on space productivity

What can suppliers do about it?
  • Short-term: Scope for any instore theatre at big venues, and best bit-parts locally
  • Medium-term: Scope for demonstrably productive instore theatre, all venues, based on a sales/sq. ft. KPI
  • Long-term: Think 1:1 consumer entertainment…
And by the way, back to the NAM-salesforce drawing board…

Scope for one more?

                                                                                                    Guillaume Quilliot via Silvana Ciraolo

Friday, 17 April 2015

Free Aldi bus for students' weekly shop

                                                                                                           pic: An Focal

Given the discounter’s primary audience-mix of students and senior citizens, and the likelihood that carefully managed long term loyalty will eventually bridge the generation-gap, this new initiative indicates the degree of Aldi’s determination to optimise its market share long term…

Currently operating at UCD, Trinity, Limerick, DCU, and Dundalk Institute of Technology, Aldi plans to serve all third level campuses by the end of 2015.

“The bus service is completely free, anyone can hop on, you don’t have to live on campus at all, you just need to email the UL Aldi Bus Rep, book your spot and even if you don’t you can show up and if there are spaces available you can get on.  They have allocated stops for the bus so it’s safe, the students will be signed on by reps and they will make sure everyone is on again after they are finished their shopping.”

Aldi’s “University” page on its website features weekly promotions of healthy recipes and cooking guides, along with the cost of purchasing each meal, in a weekly shop of €34.

Not bad for the ‘foreign, downmarket, cut-price retailer’ that had the cheek to enter the state-of-art, up-market, big-space UK retail scene 25 years ago…

With an 8.1% share of the Irish market, Aldi have no plans for extending its bus-service to the UK, yet…

Thursday, 16 April 2015

New Walgreens Boots growth strategy - back-to-basics+ via Boots

Building on improved sourcing - scale economies - across the group, the Boots influence on Walgreens is being demonstrated via convenience, pharmacy modernisation and customer care. In the US, this merely represents the harvesting of low hanging fruit…

However, a key contribution will be Boots global vision applied to wholesale consolidation, with M&A a vital route to WBA global purchasing power. In the process, it is unlikely that the group will pass up many opportunities to expand its retail footprint via acquisition.

In other words, we are beginning to see the emergence of a fully global group aimed at selling any H&B goods and services that can be legally sold to consumers and retailers, with buying muscle to match…

It is vital that suppliers gear up to this new global reality, in terms of time, money and people.

When it comes to globalisation, McKesson-Celesio has the potential to go global, but is way behind Boots WBA vision.

The major grocery multiples are currently focused on protecting their national/UK interests, and are no longer acting globally.

This leaves WBA as the only global player in H&B. 

The group is being driven by the Boots culture in retailing, and Alliance Boots in wholesaling, implementing a global vision that has not missed a beat so far…

A diminishing window to get things right?
Suppliers need to prepare for the inevitability of full global coverage, and ensure that their prices and terms are fully synchronised, before WBA gets really serious about scale economising…

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Less is the same, but the cost is more

Like bankruptcy, a brand dies in two stages, first slowly, then suddenly....

In other words, whilst the Tesco product cull may contain a few (30,000) surprises, the slow, steady erosion of brand equity leading to this inevitable de-listing will have been building for a number of years via petty short-changing of the consumer by the brand's champion via same-price contents reduction, on the assumption that consumers are locked into unquestioning loyalty, like years ago.....

'Savvy' buying started with the consumer and has gradually spread up the supply chain, but appears to have stopped short of the brand owner....?

Given the effort it requires to build brand loyalty, and ease with which it can be destroyed, coupled with the multiplier effect of a dissatisfied consumer telling 10 friends, it is bewildering how brand owners are taking such liberties with brand franchise in reducing contents...

Taking into account the ability of the consumer to product-compare on the go, it becomes obvious that the real cost of brand desertion is borne by the supplier, with Tesco merely the catalyst, and the consumer a key driver.

Monday, 13 April 2015

When a customer becomes a busted flush - where this leaves the NAM, incrementally?

Today's news that unsecured creditors of 'in administration' Phones 4u are unlikely to receive any compensation is just the latest demonstration of the difference between government 'green shoots' and the street-level experiences of businesses and the public...

Given that any supplier making 5% net profit before tax and owed £150k by Phones 4u, now need incremental sales of £3m to cover the lost profits, it is obviously vital that in any category, NAMs, as chief can-carriers, need to be hyper-sensitive to the financial health of their customers...

Why NAMs?
Other job-holders, being at least at one remove from the supplier-retailer commercial interface, and reliant on open domain returns at Companies House, tend to work in arrears...

However, a NAM is usually in the thick of the day-to-day sell-buy exchange with customers, dealing with the customer's live issues like off-shelf sales vs. target, cash-flow, real-world in-store fulfillment and compliance, against a constant backdrop of demands for cash and extra days credit...

Add to this the NAM's (intimate) knowledge and insight re the personalities involved in the decision-making-process, coupled with latest available financial returns and the result is a 'good-as-you-get' indicator of the customer's ability to stay in business.

Other key indicators are detailed here and here.

Whilst you may be in doubt as to who is in the firing line when it comes to customers going bust, you can at least be sure that you will be head of the queue when it comes to attempting to generate the incremental sales required to cover lost profits...

To avoid becoming another busted flush, why not calculate the current amounts owed by your customers, divide by your pre-tax net profit margin, and multiply 100 to reveal the true scale of your exposure vs. your current incremental sales options...   

Friday, 10 April 2015

The CMA investigation of Poundland’s takeover of 99p Stores - a retro, redundant exercise in cut-priced, hyper-competitive British retail?

Over at The Telegraph, Graham Ruddick reports that the Competition and Markets Authority's analysis could result in the closure of 33% of the 99p stores, thereby jeopardising the deal...  He also points out that the UK consumer now has unprecedented multichannel access to choice via discounters, major mults and the Internet.

This makes consumers less vulnerable to abuse by anti-competitor behaviour.

We would simply add that where market information flows freely, competition plays a regulatory function in balancing demand and supply.

In other words, the emergence of price comparison tools, at home and in-store, has helped to create a state of almost perfect competition in the UK, where the role of the CMA is in danger of becoming redundant, unless little £1 sparks of initiative are damped down at birth...

If fact, in the current real world, could the CMA initiative be deemed anti-competitive?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

What if Aldi & Lidl grow at 10% in flatline?

Apart from politicians' assurances re post election growth, just suppose that we are into flatline growth for the next five years, at least...

Also given Aldi & Lidl combined share of 9% (see yesterday's NamNews) and a conservative (!) estimate of 10% growth vs major mults at 0%, the two discounters will reach 15% share by 2020...

The resulting issue for suppliers has to be, barring radical changes in discounter ranging policy, most of this growth will be via surrogate branding, at the expense of national brands...

Branded suppliers have a choice:
  • Either persuade the discounters to stock more brands...
  • Or find a way to optimise private label, and seek a fair share of the discounter action
...whilst the major mults mount the deepest price cuts ever, possibly fuelled by back to front margin moves...

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

'Back-to-Front' thinking spreads on-shelf as Melbourne shopper encourages people to buy local

                                                                                                                   pic: Daily Mail

In a classic example of unforeseen consequences of shopper engagement, the Daily Mail reports on an Australian woman starting a ‘flip it and reverse it’ campaign and turning labels around so people can see where supermarket foods ACTUALLY come from...

The issue for retailers is whether this one-off initiative represents a single-shopper quirk, or is perhaps the tip of a consumer-need iceberg. In other words, should enterprising retailers seize a competitive edge by filling shelves to reveal label contents, and perhaps add an occasional normal facing to aid brand-identification?

Given that this 'dumbing-up' would reverse years of simplifying shelf-filling process, and could result in knock-on labour cost-increases, perhaps suppliers could play their part by modifying their shelf-ready pack configurations?

Meanwhile, marketing colleagues on regular store-visits are bound to notice the slight reduction in pulling power of current back-of-pack labelling, and may hopefully authorise enhanced branding of rear labels..

...thereby begging the question as to the function of the now-redundant front label, in these unprecedented times?   

A Post-Easter Bargain from Sainsbury's?

                                                                                         Pic: MEN/Alex Kilpatrick

A Manchester offer you can refuse, and one you cannot, Moscow-style?

                                                                                                  pic: Business Insider

With inflation in Russia running at 11.4%, maintaining the retail price represents a discount!

Meanwhile, in deflationary UK, holding the price steady indicates a price increase!

Fortunately, in each case, the consumer is savvy, and understands these subtleties!

More on Russian pricing here at Business Insider

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Tesco & Walmart: going in different directions to reach the same point?

News that Walmart are telling suppliers to 'keep those trade funds and put them toward the cost of goods' will result in significant - and permanent - price cuts, has to indicate that Asda may at least consider a similar approach in the UK....

Given that trade investment can be 20% of supplier selling prices - translating to 15% of net shelf-prices for a retailer on average margins of 25%, the impact on retail prices would be significant..

Meanwhile, Tesco's move from 27  to 3 negotiation points re trade investment would achieve a similar result on shelf.

Whilst each retailer is taking responsibility for setting the selling price in a drive for market share, the difference between the two approaches are:
  • Walmart/Asda are implying that trade investment transferred into lower buying-in prices and then to EDLP has more impact on consumers    
  • Tesco sees merit but overlap in some trade investment buckets and will presumably negotiate the transfer of 'surplus' monies to the front margin, where they will presumably fund price reductions?

The issue for UK suppliers has to  be the extent to which the other retailers will follow the trade-investment funded pricing route...