Showing posts with label Tesco crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tesco crisis. Show all posts

Thursday 15 January 2015

Tesco gets new junk status credit rating, proving that the 'first cuts were not the deepest...'

Last week's Tesco moves that included shutting 43 stores, moving the head office and ending its pension program, along with the sale of the Blinkbox movie-streaming unit, price cuts and £250m of cost savings, were judged insufficient to prevent S&P downgrading their credit rating from investment grade to junk status.

Following on from Moody's equivalent downgrade last week, it now remains to be seen whether the third major agency, Fitch Ratings, will follow suit.

What is a 'junk bond'?
Junk bonds are fixed-income instruments that carry a rating of 'BB' or lower by Standard & Poor's, or 'Ba' or below by Moody's. As you know, junk bonds are so called because of their higher default risk in relation to investment-grade bonds. In other words, the rating is used by the market to assess the degree of risk for those prepared to engage with a company via purchase of its bonds, investment in its shares, or extending them credit.

In return for the perceived risk, the company will usually have to pay more for the assistance, in terms of interest, or offer earlier payment. This means that the cost of running the business will rise, thereby impacting the bottom line...

What does it mean for Tesco?
Given that the above ratings were given after the announcement of the turnaround plans, it means that the ratings agencies believe that Tesco are not taking sufficient steps to deal with the structural changes in the market, and the discounters in particular...

Action for Tesco?
Tesco now have to add extra moves to the action-list in order to attempt to reverse the junk ratings, ideally before Fitch follow S&P and Moody's.

Possible options include:
  • Extension of the headline 'up to 25%' price-cuts on 380 branded products to perhaps an extra 400 brands to fully replicate Discounter product portfolios
  • Acceleration of asset sales (Tesco Bank, SE Asia interests, perhaps an additional 40+ store closures) in order to pay down debt and reduce the interest burden
  • Searching for, say, an extra £250m in cost savings within the business
NB. the moves have to be sustainable and 'spectacular' in order to counteract the junk ratings, and neutralise the increased costs of doing business.

'Ignoring' the ratings would probably result in additional pressure on the share price.

The Tesco moves also have to be translated into bottom-line KPIs, spelling out how each move will impact net margin, and ROCE, minimum... And all of this in the shadow of the ongoing SFO investigation.

What it means for NAMs?
For speed and clarity, Tesco have to shift the emphasis from back to front margin in order to impact the consumer-shopper.

In order to avoid much of their trade investment ending up in front margin buckets, NAMs need to reassess their competitive appeal relative to other brands/products available to the consumer, in terms of Product, Price, Presentation and Place.

A couple of 'what-ifs' re the impact of a 25% price cut on their brand - or a competitor - in terms of  relative competitive appeal within the category, might help in kick-starting colleagues' focus on the issue...

Next, each element of the investment package should be re-assessed in terms cost to the business and value to the customer, in order to help Tesco to see and quantify the link between brand investment and bottom line impact...

Anything less may be seen as simply another potential cost-saving in a transactional relationship... 

Friday 9 January 2015

Tesco's Fightback Plans – a Live version for the guys that count

Whilst we bated our breath and crossed our fingers in anticipation of Tesco’s announcement yesterday, and thankfully had our natural optimism endorsed via a subsequent 15% surge in the share price, Dave Lewis greatest challenge was convincing a room full of City Analysts that he meant business.

This live session is now available online:
Watch the webcast here

The Presentation:
The real benefit for NAMs lies in the fact that the 1.5hr session gives a real demonstration of how Tesco has been dealing with the crisis. In a 60 minute presentation via 42 slides, Dave Lewis explains in some detail the key moves now reported in the media. 

However, as salesmen, NAMs have a special advantage in watching the man in action, with body-language providing additional insight and supplying the pieces of the perception-jigsaw that enables suppliers to enhance anecdotal learnings picked up in face-to-face encounters with the buyer.

The Q&A session:
Whilst it could be said that the opening presentation was rehearsed and fluent, the Q&A session (at approx. 55 mins into the webcast) reflected some of the more obvious issues affecting the audience, and this session gave the analysts (and the viewer-NAMs) access to CFO Alan Stewart and caused Tesco to think on their feet, another learning opportunity for NAMs…

With up to three questions per analyst, and careful observation of the manner in which the answers were handled, the 40 minute session has to yield some individual nuggets for perceptive NAMs.

The questions were mainly financial, reflecting the priorities of Tesco’s current situation, but the over-riding impression for observant NAMs is that whilst Tesco sees its issues and opportunities in terms of meeting consumer need, the key lens they will use will be risk-reward and cost vs. value relationships.

In other words, the numbers will count, big-time!

I could give you chapter and verse re the entire session, but nothing beats the value of finding 1.5 hours over the weekend for those NAMs prepared to invest a little 'leisure-time' in seeing how your career will pan out over the next few years.

Yesterday’s webcast showed the new Tesco culture in action, and if successful, a pointer for the future of UK retail…

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Tesco Supplier Contracts - a ‘back to front’ move in trade relationships?

On Thursday, Tesco is expected to announce that it is making major changes in supplier contracts by shifting its emphasis from back-margin to front-margin.

In practice, this has to mean that commercial income (trade investment) will be translated into sales-based reward, and presumably negotiated into trade margin and volume discounts. Given the sums involved, with trade investment running at 20% of their sales for many suppliers, and average trade margins at 25% of a retailer’s net sales, it is imperative that suppliers enter these re-negotiations, well prepared.

In effect, this means that a supplier has to be very clear about the actual cost to the business of each element of the supplier trade investment package, the purpose, the KPIs and the terms of compliance. Converting these sums into the incremental retail sales (ex VAT) that they represent, based on the retailer’s current net margin, will help in adding value in negotiation.

More importantly, it will remind the NAM that any transfer into front-margin has to be linked with appropriate levels of incremental sales.

In other words, as front-margin currently consists of a mix of the retailer’s trade margin and unconditional volume discounts (!) it is vital that any additional volume-based discounts should be made conditional upon specific initiatives hitting pre-agreed KPI targets, and paid in arrears – a reward for additional effort by the retail-partner, the original purpose of trade investment.

If Tesco manages to make this fundamental change in their supplier relationships, and unless suppliers are able to tie the incentives to specific in-store initiatives, it is probable that much of the monies will transfer into price support.

This means that other multiples will have to follow suit, or risk loss of market share.

Time for a fundamental re-assessment of the TOTAL support package your brand needs in making itself available to the consumer?

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Tesco's Christmas' Surprise - a Final Shocker for the Market?

Today’s profit warning, indicating that February’s year-end profits will come in at £1.4bn, 25% lower than analysts’ expectations, had better be the final shock from Tesco…

Whilst the City will be relieved that no further scandals were revealed, this below-expectation profit guidance has to mean that analysts are still not reading Dave Lewis well enough, and will hopefully result in an over-reaction in terms of the share price…

In other words, the stock market will probably mark the shares down more than is warranted, just-in-case…

There is hopefully an element of ‘kitchen-sinking’ in the 2014-15 results in that we have to assume that all write-offs have been factored in, which, coupled with investments in price, availability and other improvements in its customer offer, lead us to expect that all future announcements will be defensible, transparent but above all, conservative….

We are obviously seeing only the surface impact of the changes being undergone in Tesco, as Dave Lewis’ new team revisits plans and strategies, implementing a new commercial approach that will underpin stronger long-term relationships with its suppliers to ensure that revenue recognition is transparent and appropriate, all in the shadow of an SFO investigation….

What it means for NAMs
All commercial income will be redefined, quantified and where possible, retrospective
All forecasts will be conservative, and ideally tied to clear KPI measures
…However, in order to avoid missing out on unexpected demand, Tesco will expect a rapid response to sales surges...

The future conversation will be about demonstrable cost & value, as a base requirement.

In return, suppliers should insist on 100% compliance, and fair-share dealings, shock-proofed…

More on 'Tesco- the end of the beginning for a great retailer' here

Tuesday 2 December 2014

What if a supplier was running Tesco UK - as Dave Lewis takes charge of helping the consumer to buy...

As NAMs we have all stayed in hotels, supped in restaurants and bars and concluded that a NAM in charge would make a real difference.

Ditto with retailing

Given that much of our effort in front of the buyer is devoted to fighting the consumer’s corner, then perhaps with Dave Lewis’ decision to work ‘hands-on’, a NAM dream has been realised and we are entering a new era with Tesco?

Think about it:

As a brand marketer, Lewis’ starting point has to be consumption, in the home. This means that Tesco will at last acknowledge that the process starts with ensuring that the consumer’s needs as a consumer are met, in that the contents of the box are fit for purpose and exceed expectation.

The next step is to ensure that the product is made available wherever, whenever and however the consumer-shopper chooses to buy -  a multi-channel approach, writ large…

When it comes to bricks & mortar, 100% on-shelf availability is a given, with no excuses.
It follows that category-based in-store presence via aisle-based shopper-marketing will be made conducive to optimising repeat purchase, with theater to match…

This means 100% zero-defect delivery, all based upon sales-based demand and fulfilment.

That only works if the brands are purchased within a realistic competitive-set, with private label having its fair share, instead of being an over-faced passenger  ...and never forgetting that the guy in charge knows more about supply than Tesco could only dream about….

And patently, given the stock-market impact of the Tesco crisis, the financials have to stack up…

In other words, the next three months are going to make or break Dave Lewis, so I don’t mind betting he will give it his best shot, in the only way he knows…

NAMs and other retailers might well profit by taking a leaf from his new book, and attempting to turn around their entire approach to helping consumer-shoppers to buy, again and again and again and again…

Thursday 30 October 2014

Tesco are not 'serious fraudsters'

Tesco is simply a train that moved too fast, causing some of the wheels to fall off.....

The real issue is the opportunity this high-profile case provides for the SFO to attempt to restore a reputation that has been tarnished by a series of high profile failures in recent years. This relatively clean case of naive manipulation by amateurs, gives the SFO the means of demonstrating its ability to investigate and penalise corporate wrongdoing, secure in the knowledge that Tesco, or its management, are unlikely to retaliate in the case of possible over-enthusiastic application of the letter-of-the-fraud investigation process, unlike a recent SFO investigation....

The disruptive impact on the day-to-day conduct of the Tesco business should not be underestimated, given that the recent Deloitte investigation, albeit a far less comprehensive project, allegedly involved more than six million documents with 18,000 invoices reviewed and 700 scruitinised in detail....

Apart from the inevitable parallel but internal reviews by other multiples, 'just-in-case', many suppliers are already conducting internal reviews to assess any possible impact on the integrity of their trade investment process. However, it has to be said that in the main, these reviews will hopefully be in private, the only issue being relationships with internal audit-control, with NAMs having to explain how sums were authorised and paid in advance, possibly 'on a nod' in terms of promises of a promotion in the following year, all with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight...

Regrettably, whilst the consumer ultimately benefits from lower shelf-prices, the SFO investigation output will also result in a media-fest pointing out the 59 ways in which brand-owners incentivise retailers to persuade the shopper to buy more...

Finally, unfortunately for Tesco, this is not just a UK issue.  Some Tesco shareholders live in the US, a country where people that feel they have been wronged, litigate, and Tesco shareholders will be no exception. Their approach will be in contrast with the UK, where in such cases it has been customary for the authorities to issue a reprimand, draw a line, and move on...

Any output from the SFO investigation will probably be used as a basis for shareholder class action in the US, in a search for compensation. In turn, any such result in the US courts will probably roll onto the UK stage, encouraging UK shareholders to seek similar compensation.

Overall there will be a change in supplier-retailer relationships, as all parties move to numbers-based assessment of cost and value, and the savvy consumer's demand for demonstrable value-for-money rolls back up the supply-chain.

Suppliers are now in a position to make or break Tesco, but it is imperative that any help given should not be unconditional...

In other words, Tesco and the SFO are presenting an unprecedented opportunity for suppliers to elevate the NAM-Customer relationship to a new level based upon fair-share dealings, where numbers count, and KPI achievement becomes the ultimate basis for retrospective performance-based reward...

All else is detail...

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Tesco's cash appetite: the opportunity for suppliers

Given Tesco’s combination of £14bn debt and £3.4bn net pension deficit, vs. its latest market capitalisation of £13.6bn, it is obvious that Dave Lewis’ priority has to be a sell-off of assets.  In which case, a mixed shopping basket containing Dunnhumby, Tesco Bank and Tesco South Korea ‘should do nicely, thank you’ in helping the company in getting back to square one…

The off-limits moves
In this situation, moving the credit period from 40+ days to 90 days, a potential cashflow gain of approx. £5bn would help, but would do little for enhancement of supplier relations...  Equally, any attempts to increase supplier trade investment or escalation of deductions would not only attract the attentions of the authorities and media i.e. consumer, but would alienate suppliers, the essential collaborators in any recovery…  Given the current scrutiny by the FCA, it seems obvious that Tesco will be unlikely to rely upon increases in credit, trade investment, or deductions as cash generators.

The key options 
On balance, it could be deduced that the sell-off of assets will be a key priority, against a background of severe tightening of all expenditure and a squeeze on liquidity on an ongoing basis.

All of the above has to increase Tesco’s sensitivity to the cost and value of supplier trade investment, and their appreciation of the direct impact on Tesco’s P&L.

Opportunities for suppliers
In other words, this combination of need for financially articulate NAMs together with Tesco’s vulnerability can provide suppliers with an unprecedented opportunity to elevate their Tesco relationship to a basis for fair-share dealings, an essential requirement for those that are prepared to help their No. 1 customer out of a black hole…

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Where now for Tesco NAMs?

Tesco NAMs have two choices:
  • Await a return to ‘normal’ (and join all those other NAMs that are still awaiting a return to ‘ normal’ trade management following the 2007 global financial crisis..?)
  • Or, accept that business is about making the best of the ‘here and now’….

Alternative actions?
  • Ignore Tesco’s troubles? i.e. business as usual: illogical, given that nothing in Tesco is or will be the same, ever again..
  • Do nothing? i.e. stop all initiatives: unwise given their 25%+ of the grocery market and equivalent access to ‘your’ consumer..
  • Tailored initiatives? i.e. based on based on current circumstances, as we know them…

On the face of it, Tesco, a new customer, is now in a mode that is
  • Ultra conservative
  • Risk-averse
  • Retro-focused and defensive
  • Under new management, but distracted by re-audit, legal, City/share-price, Government, loss of market share…to be followed by good people jumping ship?
  • Receptive to convincing ideas for growth, on a fair-share basis…
  • Driven by a new team that has to succeed…

The way forward for NAMs has to be via initiatives that are
  • Simple and direct
  • Defensible
  • Tailored to Tesco traffic-profiles (holding and optimising their current-customer types)

These initiatives must have
  • Conservative/achievable forecasts
  • Clear KPIs
  • A results-based reward structure
  • Error-free execution
  • 100% availability
  • Exclusivity in exchange for 100% compliance

In other words, the best opportunity you have had to work properly with Tesco in years…

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Tesco troubles pile high, but will not come cheap…

According to Reuters, the auditors for all three of Britain's biggest publicly-quoted retailers - Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons - told investors in their most recent annual reports that their businesses faced material risks regarding the reporting of the supplier rebates. Those at the smaller online retailer Ocado did likewise.

In other words, ‘everyone knows’ or should have, that forward booking of supplier rebates is common practice, and usually causes no problems in good times, but…

Another, more obvious sign of trouble has been the dramatic falls in ROCE levels since the 2007 global financial crisis, with one notable exception: Walmart is still delivering a steady 18%+, operating in the same economic conditions.. (Clients and NamNews subscribers might care to check over our in-house updates for reminders going back at least five years…)

When new management, auditors and legal advisers re-assess past accounting process, it is probable that more issues will be added to the pile…

Meanwhile, to maintain the audit-momentum, the Independent reports that in the US, Los Angeles-based law firm Glancy Binkow & Goldberg has said it is investigating potential -class action- claims on behalf of Tesco’s American shareholders over possible violations of federal securities laws, focusing on “certain statements” issued by Tesco about its operations and financial performance.

The resulting falls in share price will impact suppliers and especially NAMs...

All of this will cost Tesco, and to a lesser extent, the other multiples much time and money, and major distraction, as the benefits of hindsight kick in ….

However, it should be borne in mind that whilst Tesco is on the ropes, it is not on the canvas…

Deep down, the crisis is but another business problem that needs managing, in order to focus on consolidating a 25% market share (see KamBlog)

This set-back will give Tesco and its supplier-partners a once-and-for-all opportunity of ‘cleaning up the future’, providing a basis for fair share dealing where willing compliance saves the cost of second-guessing, a place where business development becomes the focus of business reviews and appropriate reward for risk the basis for negotiation…

A true resetting of the supplier-retailer clock to a new time-zone in trade relationships.. why not scroll down, and keep scrolling, for ways and means?