Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Sainsbury's '3%' Net Margin going forward - the 'new' role for NAMs?

If Mike Coupe is acknowledging the end of 5% net margins in UK grocery margins, and implying a more likely 3% going forward, the issues for suppliers have to be:

- Can 3% Net Margins work?
- How can my brand help?

Essentially, as you know, the driver of share price increases is ROCE, and given that ROCE is a multiple of Return/Sales and Sales/Capital Employed i.e. Net Margin x Capital Rotation, then it matters little whether a business chooses to operate a high margin, low rotation, or a low margin, high rotation business model.

It is the combination that counts, and 15% ROCE provides an acceptable reward for risk...

Therefore, if 3% Net Margin is the retail 'norm' going forward, then the multiples need to focus on increasing their capital rotation - with the help of suppliers - in order to compensate for the lower margin in producing an 'acceptable' 15% ROCE.

Increasing Capital rotation i.e. Sales/Capital Employed i.e. increasing Sales and/or reducing Capital Employed

Given that the retailers are already doing everything possible to drive sales, we shall focus on ways of increasing capital rotation, a less costly option for NAMs:

As you know, Capital Employed = Fixed Assets + Current Assets - Current Liabilities

Fixed Asset optimisation:
Fixed Assets in retail means sales space, and helping the retailer to increase space productivity - i.e. sales/sq. ft. - has to be a way forward in making their Fixed Assets more productive, using £1,000/sq. ft. per annum as a benchmark.

This means increasing basket size, and trading up the shopper. This is where in-store theatre, and shopper marketing can play a role. It also means de-listing of any overlap and de-duplicating within the assortment in order to simplify the offering to increase its shopper-appeal.  This is what Dave Lewis doing via the 30% product cull...

Incidentally, all retailers will pursue this approach to a point where they begin to sell off unproductive outlets, or risk becoming uncompetitive. Hence the store culls in the pipeline...

Current Asset optimisation:
Currents Assets = Stock + Debtors + Cash
Here the emphasis has to be on Stock optimisation i.e. increasing stockturns, without compromising on-shelf availability. This means smaller, more frequent deliveries to produce annual retail stockturns of 20+ i.e. 18+ days stock. For a retailer, this results in less capital tied up in stock, less wastage/shrink, and faster throughput.

Current Liabilities optimisation:
Current Liabilities = Bank Overdraft + Creditors
As Current Liabilities are a negative, retailers should try to increase Bank Overdraft and take longer to pay suppliers, in order to increase their Current Liabilities. However, since the global financial crisis, retailers have been trying to pay down debt and reduce exposure, thereby closing off this option

Meanwhile, taking increasing amounts of free credit from suppliers has breached politically acceptable limits, and will probably be progressively reduced in the future, thus closing off another option for retailers.

Thus the NAM needs to focus on space and stock optimisation.

In other words, doing a little more of what you are already doing, but relating it more to the top-of-mind concerns of the buyer in the future, in terms of its direct impact on the retailer's ROCE and thus the share price...

...while others turn up the volume on their traditional selling points, as they await a return to normal...

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