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Wal-Mart sharpens low-price focus

April 11th, 2011 Comments off

Here is a piece that looks at Walmart’s efforts to move back the clock to a time when they were more closely aligned with Sam Walton’s vision.

Powerful snow blowers seem like a key item to keep in stock in Minneapolis, where residents need to uncover their driveways and sidewalks from about 50 inches of snow each winter.

But a couple of years ago, Wal-Mart decided to take some snow blowers, ice-fishing gear and other goods out of its Minneapolis-area stores.

Eliminating that merchandise was part of an effort the world’s largest retailer kicked off in late 2008 to get rid of items nationwide that were not top sellers and promote deep discounts on other more popular goods.

 

Wal-Mart sharpens low-price focus | Reuters.

Home Depot echoes Lowe’s with focus on costs

November 16th, 2010 Comments off

Photo credit: David Neubert on Flickr

Here’s is a Reuters piece from today that focuses on costs at the two largest home improvement retailers in the headline.  Notice, however, the other things mentioned that relate to what we discuss in class (and that seem to me to be even more important than the cost cuts):

  1. A focus on supply chain improvements
  2. Use of cash and the importance of having strong cash flow
  3. Continued investing in improvements even when cost cuts are emphasized

Read more:

Home Depot echoes Lowe’s with focus on costs | Reuters.

Southwest Airlines to Acquire AirTran

September 27th, 2010 Comments off

Spreading Low Fares Farther | Southwest Airlines to Acquire AirTran Holdings, Inc..

See the link above for the official website related to the buyout of AirTran by Southwest.  There are numerous news reports as well that you can read elsewhere.

Photo credit: Brenden Schaaf taken September 29, 2010 at MSP using a BlackBerry Bold

Probably the biggest way this story relates to our class is in the value chain discussion with Southwest obviously feeling that they needed expand to remain competitive.  Specifically, news reports I have read and heard have indicated that Southwest had a desire to expand and/or enter the Atlanta, New York City, Orlando, and Milwaukee markets.  A year ago, Southwest was seen a suitor for Midwest Airlines but they lost out in that attempt to expand to Frontier Airlines.

Mega-mergers are the pattern in the airline industry these days following tie-ups by Delta/Northwest and United/Continental.  It will be very interesting to watch how Southwest proceeds as they try to avoid the negative aspects of mergers that have plagued many companies including other airlines (such as America West and US Airways).  Southwest probably has the most unique culture of all airlines with a playful, fun way of dealing with customers.  Anyone that has ever flown Southwest can tell you that you will not mistake it for a legacy carrier.  Culture clash is a common reason for merger failures…Southwest will have to be careful to avoid the traps associated with this as they proceed.

Another challenge will be how Southwest integrates aircraft and frequent flier programs at AirTran into the Southwest fleet and system.  Southwest is known for flying only Boeing 737 aircraft to make maintenance and other issues easier, while AirTran flies Boeing 717 aircraft in addition to 737s.  Perhaps this is a strategy for Southwest to branch out to different, but related, types of aircraft.

Another issue that will be interesting is how Southwest configures the AirTran aircraft post-acquisition.  AirTran has a small First Class cabin on most (all?) planes and they likely attract a certain segment of the business traveler population that is accustomed to the additional services provided.  Will Southwest risk alienating business travelers by going to the “cattle call” seating that they have today once they acquire AirTran and enter markets like Atlanta where there is a loyal business traveler following?  Will business travelers defect to Delta, which is also based in Atlanta?  Perhaps they already have?

Stay tuned to this situation in the months to come.  There will be lots of examples in the news related to what we discuss in class.

Other links to news about this story:

Wal-Mart works with suppliers to shore up financing

November 15th, 2009 Comments off

walmartSimilar to what Sara Lee did a few months ago, Wal-Mart is working closely with suppliers to make sure that they have ample financing.  Recognizing that if a supplier (or several) were to fail their own costs would rise, Wal-Mart is working closely with their value chain partners to make sure that doesn’t happen, especially in light of the recent bankrupty of CIT Group, a major supplier of financing to small/medium businesses.  You might even look at this as Wal-Mart creating a new value chain connecting its suppliers of merchandise with its suppliers of cash (Wells Fargo and Citibank).

Wal-Mart helps apparel suppliers secure financing. Nicole Maestri and Lisa Baertlein. Reuters. Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:35pm EST