Posts Tagged ‘barriers to entry’

The power of Aussie retail giants

March 17, 2010

I blabber on here regularly about the strategic decisions of Australia’s two biggest retailers – Coles (now part of the Wesfarmers empire) & Woolworths. The sheer size and breadth of these two firms’ operations warrant considerable attention.

The folks at ABC TV’s Hungry Beast have done a great job of bringing together the relevant stats and information about strategic agenda (and outcomes) for these two giants in a very neat, short presentation:

As their graphics show (although not explicitly), there is a lot going on in terms of Porter’s Five Forces.  Coles/Wesfarmers and Woolies have affected the economic structure of their industry(s) substantially so as to:

– reduce Rivalry (by acquiring competitors, and by building strength across retail markets so as to reduce the likelihood of competitive attacks)

– increase their Bargaining Power vis-a-vis Suppliers

– reduce Buyer’s choices of store operators (and thus their Bargaining Power)

– build substantial Barriers to Entry (although I would argue the Hungry Beast folks have misused the term greenfield).

The result is two firms that a massively oversized for the relatively small economy in which they operate.  Australia accounts for roughly 1.1% of the global economy (in terms of GDP).  Adding NZ (where these firms have much smaller coverage) only raises that figure to 1.26%.

Nevertheless, these firms come in at #26 and #28 on the Deloitte rankings of Global retailers by revenue. They are larger than all but 3-4 of the US’s supermarket chains, and of the British chains only Tesco is larger. Other than the US’s Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu, and Germany’s Edeka, no other large grocery chains operate in anywhere near as few countries (the rest are in 8-36 countries).

Seems like more evidence why I should be shopping at Aldi, my local farmers’ market and independent liquor outlet…

And thanks to Sakshi for bringing this clip to my attention.

Another entry barrier gone? (The Sequel)

November 23, 2009

Back in February I suggested that an element of the “cost of advertising/building a brand” barrier to entry has been eroded considerably by the increasing ability to film and post advertisements online (and then hope like hell for some viral takeup thereof).

I used an example from my cousin‘s Rentoid startup to demonstrate how a home video camera, a few brave mates, a funny idea and a Youtube might be equally as effective as engaging a creative agency and a film crew.

Well, technology is racing ahead. The Rentoid lads have moved very hi-tech on a similar budget (i.e. pretty much free), with this Pixar-like gem:

As Steve explains, this is all done via Xtranormal (i.e. some folks who’ve done all the hard work for you).

Clearly technology is racing ahead here for budding entrepreneurs seeking an audience.

Of course, making the ad is only one piece of the puzzle. Reaching an audience is harder. The February ad looks like it had 1200 views. One in March got almost 2000. Will this vid be the breakthrough? I guess if its close to costless there isn’t much downside risk.

A competitive spectacle

February 24, 2009

There was an excellent discussion of the Australian spectacles market in today’s Age newspaper.

A previously docile market dominated by a very large player in the midst of hundreds of effectively sole traders has been shaken up considerably by the entry of British outfit Specsavers.

The incumbent giant is the Italian firm Luxottica who added the OPSM and Laubman & Pank marques to their globally known Sunglass Hut brand via an acqusition in 2003 (as discussed in my chapter in a book called The Internationalisation Strategies of Small-Country Firms).

They may be #174 in Deloitte’s Global Retail Powers rankings, but have clearly struggled when challenged by a lower-priced, more streamlined competitor. Luxottica are a curious player in the optometry business, as they were once only a manufacturer and have vertically intregated forward into the retail business, without obviously passing on any cost savings to consumers. Their stores are typically positioned as quality, fashion-conscious purveyors.

opsm storeIn contrast, Specsavers have grown fast in their home-country, Ireland, Spain and Scandinavia through a more thrifty range of offerings and aggressive pricing. It is fascinating that Australia has become such a big target for this mob (we may soon by 15% of their business). Presumably this reflects their own observation about the easy goals that can be kicked on this previously high-margin playing field.

As the article notes, Specsavers are not the only new entrants. Woolworths is experimenting with even more pared back concern through their Big W variety stores. This may well also be a testing ground for Woolies as it prepares itself for another inevitable attempt to tackle the pharmacy regulations and become even more Wal-Mart-like.

It was always going to be hard for Luxottica to build considerable barriers to entry in this business, as there are a lot of optometry outlets (and optometrists) to be snapped up by an aggressive entrant. The challenge is now to adapt their business strategy to this new competitive dynamic.

As a glasses-wearer, I say bring it on!

Another entry barrier gone?

February 23, 2009

My post about the music business argued that technological change has reduced barriers to entry considerably. In that instance, it was a raft of new technologies that made making and distributing music so much easier. These changes rendered the previously important music labels somewhat redundant.

One further aspect of this was the scope for musicians to market themselves, as they could build their image and communicate their message through extremely low cost means (such as Myspace and Youtube).

Such gains can be seen beyond the music world. Firms can now also bypass the dominant mass-media (and its associated businesses such as ad agencies and media buyers), and attempt to communicate their message directly to consumers via the same sort of sites as the musos.

Here’s an example from web-rental business Rentoid (yes, the one run by my cousin):

It’s low budget but has a chance to go viral and build greater brand awareness than a boring print ad or a billboard (both of which would be much more expensive).

What do you think? Does it communicate an effective message?

And is this a viable strategy for many firms?

Disruptive technology amplified

February 18, 2009

I’ve posted on here before about the changing dynamics of the music industry. This interview with marketing guru and bigtime blogger Seth Godin highlights a raft of substantial and probably irreversible shifts that continue to bewilder the big record labels (See also his rearticulation of these ideas on his blog).

Godin has a neat take on the changes too:

This is the greatest moment in the history of music if your dream is to distribute as much music as possible to as many people as possible, or if your goal is to make it as easy as possible to become heard as a musician. There’s never been a time like this before. So if your focus is on music, it’s great. If your focus is on the industry part and the limos, the advances, the lawyers, polycarbonate and vinyl, it’s horrible.

Music disruptive technology iPod beats CDLet’s put this into the language of strategic management ..

Disruptive technologies (internet, low-cost recording and dissemination of audio and increasingly video, filesharing) have diminished considerably (if not almost absolutely) the power of previously dominant players in the field. This includes not only the record labels but also radio, MTV and their cohort channels, bricks and mortar retailers, and producers of CD players and CDs.

Massive shifts in distribution channels away from many of the aforementioned mechanisms. Indeed we have seen almost a polarisation whereby there a few huge-scale outlets for buying digital recordings (i.e. iTunes, Amazon) and small ranges available in large scale retailers (WalMart, Target etc), and then an enormously lengthy tail for buying digital, CD or even vinyl, often directly from the artists, from indie labels or well-conceived aggregators (like CD Baby). And, of course, a huge proportion of the product is exchanged for free through filesharing.

These two phenomena have indeed changed the world of music as we know it. This is a fascinating case of disruptive technology, as it remains very unclear which businesses have gained from this huge shift in the nature of the value chain. You could argue that Apple has through its i-empire, but I’d hazard a guess that their revenue gain does not outweigh the losses of income to the record labels etc. Similarly, it does not look like the innovators (i.e. those responsible for MP3s, file-sharing protocols etc) have reaped much in return.

moroccan-musos-djamaa-el-fnaAs Godin indicates, it would seem it is the musicians who hold much of the power now. The major barrier to entry of olden days – a major label recording deal – has fallen.

The marketing requirements have shifted considerably, with much less uniformity in the approach taken. Mainstream music has faded from our culture as smaller and smaller niches open up as viable and vibrant communities of interest.

It is unclear that major record labels have any competitive advantage at all in such domains. Indeed their credibility is highly questionable, and, with integrity and uniqueness so highly valued, their patronage may well be a burden for new acts. Indeed it appears possible to build a substantial following without a label or indeed much pay-to-listen product (as exemplified by the case of Aussie outfit Short Stack or US singer Corey Smith).

Musicians face considerable diversity of possible revenue streams, many of which are not subject to extreme bargaining power (merchandise, live performances, personal CD sales (i.e. at performances/appearances)), or offer considerable returns for limited effort (licensing of songs to video games, movies, advertisements). Increasingly there is little need to utilise the record label to tap these streams. I’ll finish with another quote from Godin which should remind artists where the gold may lie:

The idea that you could have a micro-market of 250, 500, 1,000 copies of a CD every night is a totally different way of thinking about what you do for a living, rather than making one album a year marketed with payola and promotion that reaches a certain group of people and ignores everybody else.