Analysing and Understanding Shopping Centres

One of the good things about being a Professor of Retail Studies is that you get to meet interesting people with interesting ideas.  Over the last year or so I have been involved on some executive education with Bayfield Training and learned about the development of their ‘Retail Quilts’.

These Retail Quilts have now come to fruition, I have thus invited Natalie Bayfield to explain the concept and the benefits of this development.  If you are interested in these, then the contact details for Natalie and Bayfield are at the end of this post.

Over to Natalie:

Bayfield Retail Quilts: A tool to help understand shopping centre success.

Every so often when we’re creating training material we come up with something really exciting. At Bayfield Training our job is to make complex subjects accessible and we use a number of techniques to achieve this: gamification, modelling, repetition methods, case studies and visualisations.

Shopping centre investment as a subject has been one of our biggest challenges yet. The asset is incredibly complex. We can invite an expert on different aspects of the same case study mall and be treated to erudite presentations that have more in common with the pedagogy of architecture, customer service, retailing, facilities, marketing or service charge than they might do with the case study mall itself. Our challenge was to develop a regular format for case study malls. To do this we needed to understand the common denominators of a mall and what it is that makes each mall unique?

In 2013, designing our first shopping centre investment course, we hit upon the idea of squarified tree maps. We had tried fitting the layouts of different shopping centres each on an A4 page. Very few, if any of them, fit. Many had more than one level, compounding the problem. And where we did get them onto one page we found they didn’t tell us very much. Quite simply they contained too much information to be useful.

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Figure 1: Mall Layout, Gray’s Shopping Centre, Thurrock

 

What if we removed the layout altogether and simplified the collection of retail units into a quilt of relative unit sizes? We had seen tree maps, which sort variables into relative squares, used in other areas but given this was before Excel 2016 had incorporated tree maps as a feature, we asked one of our designers Taffy @_itsTaffy to find a program to make them. Having applied tree maps to shopping centres we named them Bayfield Retail QuiltsTM. We included them in our course and as delighted as we were at the simplification they offered, we hadn’t yet realised their full potential. We have since updated both the program and the technique.

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Figure 2: Bayfield Retail Quilt, The Oracle Shopping Centre, Reading

 

So what are they? Retail Quilts are essentially a pie chart but divided into relative size squares rather than variously sized slices of a pie. Why a Retail Quilt rather than a pie chart? It’s simple, squares look much more like shop units than pie slices do, and therefore for the specific context of shopping centres, Retail Quilts are easier to interpret.

Take the Oracle Shopping Centre, in Reading, above. It is typical of most, but not all, shopping centres i.e. Department Stores in the top left are the dominant category with Fashion and Accessories coming in a close second. The Oracle is already well adapted to the current Retailtainment trend, with a more than most offering of F&B and accompanied by a large Vue Cinema. Vacancy is a little higher than we would like, until you look more closely and realise a third will be occupied again soon. Finally, a nice variety of jewellery, shoes, services and newsagents are found among the smaller shops in the bottom right.

There is no new data here. It is the presentation of the data that speeds up comprehension and pattern spotting. Take the Gray’s Centre in Thurrock. How different is the offering to the Oracle?

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Figure 3: Bayfield Retail quilt: Gray’s Shopping Centre, Thurrock

The Retail Quilt for the Gray’s Shopping Centre tells you very quickly that Household, Kids & Charity is by far the dominant category, not Department Stores, although Fashion & Accessories holds its position in second place. A healthy presence of F&B is nonetheless comprised of fast food outlets compared to the Oracle’s fancier brands. Other stores include supermarkets and retail services which are less prevalent in the Oracle.

The Retail Quilt helps you identify stores much better than the data alone or by trying to identify and assemble the tenants from the mall layout in your head. The Gray’s Centre clearly attempts to serve a very different demographic to the Oracle.

How about the question: is Hollister in every shopping centre in the UK? You don’t have to know much about Hollister to make a beeline for the middle of the green Fashion & Accessories category in each Retail Quilt. Searching for a Hollister in a Mall Layout is obviously a lot more difficult.

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Figure 4: Raw data, Shopping Centre layout or Bayfield Retail Quilt?

 

Of course you could simply query the raw data, but the query provides zero context. A simple query limits the ability to hypothesise and spot patterns, something the brain does much better visually.

So, is there a Hollister in the Oracle or the Gray’s centre? Why is Hollister in one mall and not the other? Which presentation of data helps most in getting an answer but also more interestingly contextualising the answer?  You might also like to think about how a book of quilts could help analyse, define and discuss value across shopping centres.  Obviously this is just scratching the surface of their potential, and if you want to learn more then please get in touch.

About Natalie and Bayfield

Natalie Bayfield is Chairwoman of Bayfield Training and a lecturer in Real Estate Finance at the University of Cambridge. For a sample publication of the Retail Quilts or to enrol on one of their courses visit the Bayfield Training website at www.bayfieldtraining.com/research

You can also follow Natalie on twitter @NatalieBayfield

Posted in Bayfield, Brands, Data, Department Stores, Food Court, Inter-depenendencies, Property, Relationships, Retail Quilts, Retailers, Shopping Centres | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

So you think you know Scottish Towns?

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Almost two years ago, Scotland’s Towns Partnership launched Understanding Scottish Places (USP) – a data platform to provide for the very first time consistent and comparable data on 479 Scottish Towns.  At a time when funding is tight, there was a desire to drive evidence based decision – taking and to challenge some existing perceptions of places.

The USP project, commissioned and funded by the Scottish Government and the Carnegie UK Trust was carried out by a consortium comprising Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and ourselves at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, all marshalled by the Carnegie UK Trust.

The outcome – Understanding Scottish Places (USP) – launched in April 2015 can be found at usp.scot.  The data platform has been hugely positively received, witnessed over 50,000 web hits and been the base for various wider developments including the FSB Scotland Entrepreneurial Towns initiative last week.  It has become the starting point for conversations, discussion, debate, strategy and policy, as envisaged conceptually by the Fraser Review and practically by the USP consortium.

USP 2

But, even at launch, we were well aware that this was the start and not the end of something.  Our own analysis and user feedback pointed to gaps and desires.  Some were unattainable, falling on the alter of rigour, consistency and comparability – the bed rock of USP.  Others were very simply biding their time or needed to be realigned to our 479 towns to meet our strict criteria.

This week we unveil USP 2 – the enhanced version of USP.  Following user feedback and developments in data availability, USP 2 introduces several new features:

  • Commuter flows – a new indicator showing the top daily flows in and out of each town;
  • Tourist bed places – a new indicator showing tourism accommodation capacity in each town;
  • Grand funding – a new indicator with the amount of grant funding allocated in each town from four major grant funders in Scotland;
  • Diversity of retail offer – a new indicator showing the diversity of the retail sector in each town, which also appears in the inter-relationship scale;
  • New indicators showing population and employment change over time;
  • An ‘Export to PDF’ tool for individual towns, to be able to more easily download your town’s results; and
  • New and original descriptions of each town, mentioning history, geography and economy.

In addition other, improvements have been made:

  • The ‘number of GP surgeries’ indicator was converted into number of individual GPs. Then, ‘number of GPs’ and ‘number of dentists’ were combined into one indicator, giving a better picture of health professional presence in each town;
  • The experience of scrolling past the USP map was made more user friendly;
  • An A-Z case study series of USP Your Town Audits is also being created.

We believe these are substantial enhancements and additions.  Go and have a look and play and tell us what you like and don’t like.  What’s missing and what could be enhanced?  As before, this revision is a stepping stone to further enhancements in v3 in 2019 or earlier if possible. We already have commitments on greenspace data and are in discussions for culture–heritage and digital data.  Can you help with these or others?

We also want to know how USP is used and where it has an impact.  We know for example it has lead to policy decisions in some places and opened conversations in others.  In some cases Audits of towns have followed to enhance the data USP provides and extend it – the Your Town Audits section of USP provides details on how to go about this and we encourage you to take part in this part of the process of really understanding your – and our – towns.

As Kevin Stewart MSP, Minister for Local Government and Housing, commented:

“There is some fascinating information on this website and I would encourage both professionals and members of the public to visit usp.scot to see how the tool could be used to benefit their local area. Its new features will support efforts to create flourishing places for all those who live, work in and visit our towns.”

So, if you are interested in Scotland’s Towns you need to get behind and involved in USP and get on usp.scot to explore whether you really do know Scotland’s Towns.  You might be surprised and inspired.

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Leigh Sparks (University of Stirling), Phil Prentice (Scotland’s Towns Partnership), Anne Findlay (University of Stirling)  and Gina Wilson (Carnegie UK Trust) announcing the launch of USP2 at The Scottish Parliament

Posted in Carnegie UK Trust, Data, Institute for Retail Studies, Local Authorities, Places, Planning, Research, Retail Policy, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Scotland's Towns Partnership, Scottish Government, Town Centre Action Plan, Town Centre Review, Town Centres, Towns, Towns Typology, Understanding Scottish Places, University of Stirling, USP | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Good Food is a Religion

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my passion for Welsh rugby, fresh food and especially marketsEvery so often the stars align and we take ourselves off to Rome where all can be indulged.  And so it was last weekend.

Early February in Rome is not the best time for the rugby, but we did OK, despite the weather and the Conservative/UKIP coup inspired freefall in the value of the pound.  It did mean we avoided some of the tourist–gouging places and sought out more freshness and value.

Thus it was that we ended up at the Farmers’ Market at the far end of Circo Massimo on Saturday morning.  After a quick re-enactment of some of best chariot bits of Ben Hur we were ready for some food.  And what a market it is.

As the photographs of the English leaflet below shows this market is truly a producers’ market, being part of the Campagna Amica.  Focusing on shortened supply chains, greater sustainability and fair profits for producers, it showcases some stunning produce.

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Campagna Amica is a brand which identifies places where people can find authentic Italian products guaranteed by farmers.  It links

  • 5900 farmers
  • 1200 markets
  • 1500 agri-tourism sites
  • 300 restaurants
  • 170 stores

This is authentic, real, Italian produce direct from producers.  As the photographs below show, the market is a feast for the eyes and the stomach.  It was very busy when we were there with clear evidence of people doing a weekly fruit, vegetable, cheese, meat etc. shop.  I contented myself with one of the best pork rolls I‘ve ever had – and various samples of other things.  Check out the photos carefully for detail of the produce.

In one way it was reminiscent of so many other Italian markets, but there seemed to be more direct engagement.  The quality was stunning.  Whilst produce always can look good in Italy (see Eataly for example as well as most local markets,) this was another level and interaction.  As I asked two years ago, why can’t we do this in the UK?

This was not the only impressive retailing of food.  The produce in the non-touristy part of the Campo del Fiori market was also excellent (and there are two slides from another local market as well in the show below) and some of the displays of produce in the local small stores were spectacular.  Check out the meat shops in the slide show below as well as the other produce displays.

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Food is a religion in Italy and it is one we really should be following.  Whilst Italy has its share of chains and fast-food (pizza of course) it has held on to and celebrated its authentic food heritage and culture.  I can’t wait to go back.

Posted in Campagna Amica, Consumer Lifestyle, Diet and Health, Eataly, Farmers Markets, Food, Food Quality, Food Tourism, Gastronomy, Markets, Producers, Rugby Union, Scotland Food and Drink, Slow Food, Sparks, Supply Chains, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two new academic papers on healthy eating and sport

The last few weeks of 2016 saw the release in early view of two new articles on which I am co-author.  Both are slightly unrelated directly to retailing, but they do have tangential interest for those who know my broader concerns. Both are available to download in final accepted manuscript form from our institutional depository, and if anyone wants the pdf of the early cite/view then please contact me and I will see what is possible.

Healthy Eating

The first article, co-authored with colleagues from the Institute for Social Marketing, here at Stirling and from the University of Dundee, concerns an NPRI funded project on The Impact of a targeted direct marketing price provision (Buywell) on food purchasing behaviour by low income consumers.  This was a large randomised controlled trial aimed at assessing the feasibility and impact of a targeted direct marking intervention on a large sample of low income consumers from a leading UK food retailer.

The results show that the intervention had an effect, albeit modest, on short-term food purchasing behaviour.  This would be expected a priori, but not necessarily in terms of encouraging product switching and more healthy purchasing by low income consumers.  Sustaining the effect requires further consideration.

CSR and Sport

The second article involves colleagues at Stirling, Molde/UCLan Cyprus and Salford.  The paper derived, from work by one of my ex-PhD students concerns the co-creation of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) value by professional team sport organisations.  The paper covers three questions:

  • Why have sports teams developed charitable foundations?
  • What CSR related resources do these foundations access from these sports teams?
  • How is CSR value co-created?

A conceptual framework using the metaphor of communicating vessels is proposed as the integrated concept linking the sports team and the charitable foundation.

Without stretching it too far, there is a link of sorts across the articles.  Both concern businesses (food retailer, sports teams) that wish to connect with big social issues as exemplified by the concerns of their consumers/areas/fans.  Given the significance of such problems, it is likely that more organisations will seek to understand and modify their behaviours.

References and Abstracts

Stead M, MacKintosh AM, Findlay A, Sparks L, Anderson AS, Barton K and D Eadie – Impact of a targeted direct marketing price promotion intervention (Buywell) on food purchasing behaviour by low income consumers: a randomised controlled trial.  Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. DOI 10.1111/jhn.12441

Price promotions are a promising intervention for encouraging healthier food purchasing. We aimed to assess the impact of a targeted direct marketing price promotion combined with healthy eating advice and recipe suggestions on the purchase of selected healthier foods by low income consumers. We conducted a randomised controlled trial (n = 53 367) of a direct marketing price promotion (Buywell) combined with healthy eating advice and recipe suggestions for low income consumers identified as ‘less healthy’ shoppers. Impact was assessed using electronic point of sale data for UK low income shoppers before, during and after the promotion. The proportion of customers buying promoted products in the
intervention month increased by between 1.4% and 2.8% for four of the five products. There was significantly higher uptake in the promotion month (P < 0.001) for the intervention group than would have been expected on the basis of average uptake in the other months. When product switching was examined for semi-skimmed/skimmed milk, a modest increase (1%) was found in the intervention month of customers switching
from full-fat to low-fat milk. This represented 8% of customers who previously bought only full-fat milk. The effects were generally not sustained after the promotion period.
We conclude that short-term direct marketing price promotions combined with healthy eating advice and recipe suggestions targeted at low income consumers are feasible and can have a modest impact on short-term food-purchasing behaviour, although further approaches are needed to help sustain these changes.

Kolyperas D, Anagnostopoulos C, Chadwick S & Sparks L (2016) Applying a Communicating Vessels Framework to CSR Value Co-creation: Empirical Evidence of Professional Team Sport Organizations, Journal of Sport Management, 30, 702-719.

Despite the increasing number and significance of charitable foundations in various business sectors, their role in co-creating corporate social responsibility (CSR) value remains unclear. This paper identifies CSR value co-creation in professional team sport organizations (PTSOs) and answers three key research questions: 1) Why have PTSOs developed charitable foundations as their means toward CSR value co-creation? 2) What CSR-related resources do PTSOs and their charitable foundations integrate? and (3) How do they manage, share and transfer such resources in order to co-create CSR value? Drawing theoretical insights from Service Dominant Logic (SDL) and consumer culture theory (CCT) – and using empirical data from 47 semi-structured interviews of UK-based professional football (soccer) clubs – this study develops a communicating vessels (CV) framework to illustrate the role of charitable foundations in the CSR value co-creation process. Through four tentative CSR value co-creation levels of relationship (bolt-on, cooperative, controlled, and strategic) the study suggests several internal strategies that can enhance the level of collaboration between founders and foundations. These include information-sharing through CRM systems and social media platforms; staff-sharing or flexible movement across the organizations; quality assurance agreements; flexible team cooperation; partnership protocols with social, media, cultural, and commercial stakeholders; and co-training of personnel.

 

Posted in Academics, Advertising, Communications, Consumer Lifestyle, Cooperative Group, CSR, Diet and Health, Food Retailing, Pricing, Promotion, Sport | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waaaagaaamaaamaaa – Tesco and Booker spring a surpise (perhaps)

I read something the other day whereby the author noted that such was the bad news coming out of this government and the USA so far in January, they were getting nostalgic for the calm and reason of 2016. When I put the radio on in the morning I must admit to a feeling of dread over what next stupidity the Orange one has got up to.  Today that was heightened by the thought and images of the rather distasteful love-in going on in Washington.

And then … What did he just say? Tesco, Booker. What the … Where did that come from?

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Source: Shareholder Presentation – see tesco.com

A little while ago I likened Tesco to a supertanker, and then the real problems surfaced and then seemed to get worse, though at least by then there was some sense of a plan to put things right. For about 18 months I have not really thought too much about Tesco, just watched as things seemed to stabilise and then get rather better. Not the Tesco of old, but at least, to continue the metaphor, on an even keel, and perhaps moving forward.

And then this!

Whatever the outcome, Tesco certainty has its swagger and mojo back. A merger (read takeover) into the wholesaling sector, which seemed to come out of nowhere.

As the figure above makes clear the logic from the corporate side seems quite simple. Tesco point to the relative stagnation of the in-home retail market and the growth in the out-of-home sector. By getting a piece of that action, coverage and growth may be enhanced. As with any merger (takeover) there are the promised synergies and cost savings – here derived from better buying, distribution and some central savings.

The merger documents and the press announcements and commentary point to these benefits but also highlight the opportunities for technology, suppliers reach, new product development, reduction in food waste and better service to the Booker supported stores through enhanced use of the delivery fleet. We could also think about the potential for better pricing in these stores. There may also be some scope for better use of the redundant space in many Tesco Extras – perhaps cash and carry lines or some of the food service brands supported by Booker. As the diagram below suggests the aim is to use multiple channels to reach the changing consumer, well supported by a strong back office and development/technology/distribution operation.

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Source: Stakeholder presentation – see tesco.com

This all seems very positive and indeed potentially game changing.

So, where’s the catch?

Well, on the radio Dave Lewis was very keen to point out that this does not mean Tesco are getting any more stores. So there’s no competition authority interest; right? We will see about that of course. Booker support directly c3300 Premier stores and c1900 Londis as well as the Budgens fascia. What does this mean for them? Whilst Tesco already owns and supports One-Stop, this is a step up in terms of numbers and potentially influence.  To what extent will the CMA look at control as opposed to ownership?

But, there is another way of thinking about this. The deals with Booker by independent retailers can be resigned from, so we might see more flux in the market from those that are unhappy with the likely effects, real or perceived. Some reaction may of course be emotional – they have spent their life fighting Tesco for consumers and are now expected to have at least a group hug. There will be quite a few concerned retailers. But others might see possibilities. With Tesco updating technology, adding possibilities, expanding click and collect, Clubcard and banking, potentially providing a much enhanced delivered service as well as refreshing the product range and battering down suppliers on price, the offer in the new group might look very attractive and highly competitive. There is a long way to go both in regulatory and practical terms before the effects are fully understood.

The change in retailing driven by the consumer market and its changing demands is taking us down interesting roads.  The rise of F&B and the focus on convenience have been known for some time, but today’s announcement is a major step in a potential reshaping of the vertical supply chain. Whether it sticks we shall see, but as a statement of intent and of some clear strategic thinking, it shouts, Tesco is back on form.

 

 

 

Posted in Association of Convenience Stores, Booker, Click and Collect, Competition, Competition and Markets Authority, Consumer Change, Consumer Lifestyle, Convenience stores, Food and Beverage, Food Retailing, Mergers, Restaurants, Retail Change, Tesco, Wholesaling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Co-operative Tokens, Sports Direct and The Bristol Pound

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A little while ago I put up the photograph above on Twitter of three Co-operative Society tokens I had found; in this case from the Pontycymmer Industrial and Co-operative Society for a large loaf and one pint and a half pint (presumably of milk).  These got me thinking – yes I know – and I asked Stephanie Letham (a PhD student of mine) to explore a little further.

She writes, drawing particularly on the pamphlet by Waddell (1993) and a conversation with David Rose:

“Many people may still have some of these highly collectable old tokens lying around the house somewhere, but they were very much used within the Co-operative Society Movement in the UK from the early 1850’s to the late 1960’s.

A customer goes into a local co-op and exchanges real money, getting back in its place a commodity token that may or may not come with a value printed on it but will display the commodity name itself, e.g. bread, milk or coal. Tokens could be exchanged inside a co-op store for the value of the milk, bread or coal or the customer would leave the tokens at their door step for collection when the products were delivered. Tokens purchased in this way were unique to each society as in the examples in the photo show (and as can be readily found online).   Other ways of obtaining tokens could be as part of the dividend distribution.

It is understood that the tokens allowed societies to calculate demand and delivery requirements from their customers. The money received for the tokens could allow the societies to order the raw materials that were required to make the goods.  There were also benefits from the delivery point as the milk men no longer had to handle money. However there were disadvantages from the use of tokens that included the price of the goods changing and different grades of the same goods being available.  When a society changed the tokens, this also involved the cost of new dies or new materials. At times the society would opt to use aluminium instead of brass or other materials – sometimes coloured.

There are many different tokens for different grades that can be found on commodity tokens for bread, milk, coal and even orange juice. Milk tokens were also printed to indicate that the milk could be free or at a reduced price. With this you could get, 1 WELFARE PINT, WFS MILK or FREE MILK, as examples”.

A full description of Co-op Tokens can be found in Waddell (1993) and there is also a useful section in the web-pages of The Token Society which sets them in the wider context of tokens generally.

Co-operative Societies of course came in to being in part to the fight against the ‘truck’ schemes of companies paying employees in their own money which was only redeemable at their own stores but at ruinous prices.  The Co-operative guaranteed fairness and equity even though the basic principle beyond the payment/money scheme is broadly the same.

This difference between the Co-operatives and the business owners (corporates) is an important one and in my view comes from the underlying principle and purpose behind the organisation.  Is this to extract the maximum profit from the situation or to be fair and equitable and to build a community?

So why the link in the heading to Sports Direct and the Bristol Pound?  I think we see the same underlying dichotomy at play today.  One of the key messages of the Select Committee report into Sports Direct was about its treatment of ‘workers as commodities’ and this included taking a fee for operating payment systems for them.  On the other side of the coin (sorry) we have the interest in and development of local currencies, including the dynamic and successful Bristol Pound  (a non-profit partnership between a Community Interest Company and Bristol Credit Union). Here, the motivation is to keep money circulating locally and to build the community of local citizens and organisations.

Bristol Pounds (e-currency also available)- photograph from http://www.bristolpound.org

‘Money is the root of all evil’ is an old saying, but in these tokens and the dynamic local currencies (and the principles behind them) we are now seeing, it doesn’t always have to be so.

Reference

Waddell PDS (1993) Cooperative Checks: tickets, tokens and coins.  The British Association of Numismatic Societies Doris Stockwell Memorial Papers Number 5. ISBN 0 901603 02 3

book-covercoins

Posted in Bristol Pound, Community Co-operatives, Cooperative Tokens, Cooperatives, Food Retailing, History, Local Currency, Local Multiplier, Localisation, Places, Retail Change, Sports Direct | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘squeezed middle’ and the domino effect in the grocery supply chain

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A popular phrase used in media and other commentary on the UK grocery system is that “Small firms are being ‘squeezed’ by their powerful partners“.   This is shorthand for financial pressures put on SMEs by large organisations such as grocery retailers or multinational manufacturers; it is suspected that these pressures may put at risk the financial viability of many SMEs. However, there are many successful and sustainable relationships between smaller and larger organisations in the industry. In addition, investigations by the Competition Commission and the Groceries Code Adjudicator reported that, with a few exceptions, the network is broadly competitive. So, why all this noise and belief?

Recently, George Maglaras (principle investigator) and Leigh Sparks have looked at this issue using seed-corn funding from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. The project aimed at obtaining an understanding around the prevalence of and attitudes about the ‘squeezing’ phenomenon inside the UK grocery network. The findings, from 18 in-depth interviews with various stakeholders of the grocery network (i.e. retailer buyers, manufacturers, distributors, primary suppliers and trading relationships consultants), showed that practitioners generally disagree with the media comments.  They believe that the ‘squeezing’ conditions within the network have developed due to market pressures. In particular, the significant growth of the discounters, increasingly high consumer expectations and the limited growth in the market are putting significant pressure on the network.

The question that is then reasonably being raised is “why are larger network members being accused of ‘squeezing’ their partners”? The answer requires an understanding of the issue of power within the network. Powerful parties are leveraging their power advantage to absorb the least amount of market pressures possible while transferring the bulk of the pressure on to their partners. This phenomenon creates a domino effect inside the network where every network member tries to protect and maintain their profit margins by passing the market pressures to their partners. Consequently, weaker network members (e.g. farmers or small manufacturers) are more vulnerable in this context.  They might feel threatened or might need to leave the network. But how bad is this for the network?

The good news: such pressures are not necessarily too bad if we consider that the consumer seems to increasingly prefer consistently low prices and limited product range (i.e. what discounters are offering).  Perhaps 20 different barbecue sauces per store was too much of a choice! A super-efficient grocery network able to reducing its costs and reducing product prices could be a competitive one under the current market conditions.

The bad news: we also found that the network sometimes ‘loses sight’ of the consumer. Powerful members may exercise their power for achieving short-term gains (e.g. for filling a gap in their bottom line) by asking for agreements that will allow them to maximize profit margins rather than optimising the offer to the consumer (e.g. product range inside the stores). Usually, it is the larger partners that can offer such improved terms rather than the SMEs which can’t be equally flexible in their deals. This increases the pressure on the already ‘squeezed’ network; it disadvantages the smaller members and might put at risk the quality of the products or the service levels provided by some of them.

The UK grocery network operates under these ‘squeezing’ conditions and there is considerable emphasis on cost and price reductions; this makes smaller companies vulnerable since they might not be able to absorb the market pressures or they are not powerful enough to avoid part of them. Network stakeholders need to ensure that this emphasis on efficiency and the way market pressures are being absorbed by the network collectively should not put at risk the product quality, optimum product range or service levels offered to the consumer. There is a need to identify a balance among these elements. This has become increasingly important due to the threat of Brexit added market pressures. Further increasing the gap between triangles in a Toblerone bar will be devastating for consumers given the recent reactions …

The results of the project are currently being written up for practitioner and academic audiences.  If you would like further information please contact George Maglaras at the University of Stirling.

 

 

Posted in Academics, Brexit, Food Retailing, Governance, Networks, Pressure, Regulation, Relationships, Retailers, Suppliers, Supply Chains, Sustainability, Toblerone | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment