This dissertation seeks to examine Sainsbury’s supermarkets plc (Sainsbury’s) as a company and how they can use their established brand to branch out and gain potential growth in the industry, and to explore how they are coping with the recent credit crunch. Sainsbury’s has come a long way from being the market leader to dropping to the third position which it is struggling to maintain. This can be attributed to a series of wrong decisions and lack of foresight leading to their current struggles. They suffered from poor management in the past and this has reflected on their effort to catch up with the industry leaders. In addition, because of the recent credit crunch, banks have cut back on lending to both individuals and firms thereby swaying consumers to demand cheaper products and curb their expenditures.
A question springs to mind: prior to the crisis, supermarkets have passed on rising food prices to consumers but now more than ever prices are low, so why the sudden change in tactics? Small businesses are going under due to lack of finance which hinders them from competing and offering low prices but this loss to society becomes a gain to the big supermarkets. Does this mean that the supermarket industry has less risk than other industries or has the supermarket industry adjusted strategically to cope with the global downturn? 2. Background of the study Sainsbury’s supermarket, a subsidiary of J Sainsbury plc was first opened in 1869 and is one of UK’s most reputable stores.
They own 509 supermarkets and 276 convenience stores around the UK according to their website and are best known for their quality products that are priced fairly. It operates as an oligopoly where only few firms in the industry have majority of the market shares. Historically they have had the advantage of been in the industry a lot longer than its competitors who have now taken over in both performance and market share. Over a consecutive three month period ending in June 2008, Sainsbury’s reported 3. 4% increase in like-for-like sales which exclude fuel. They have recently boosted their ‘basics’ range in order to meet the growing demand and attract new customers.
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They have promoted their brand with the help of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver In the current economic climate, the supermarket industry seems not to be affected financially by the lack of global credit but they have had to change their operations strategically to meet the demand of customers in the recent economic downturn. The food industry runs a low risk trade because majority of its products are necessities unlike other industries such as the banking sector who have suffered greatly from the credit crunch e. g. Lehman brothers. Across the continent and the UK, supermarkets have not been adversely affected by the economic crisis. Contrary to the recent events, the supermarket industry has in general employed more staff globally than any other sector. E. g. Asda has pledged to employ 7000 new workers in 2009 (BBC), Tesco also plans to take up 10,000 new workers (Sky News).
Some of the supermarkets are making plans to expand and open new stores in the current economic climate impaired with lack of credit. Companies have had to improve efficiency in order to minimise their cost and to increase profitability.
The Aims of the research project are to:
- Provide an assessment and summary of Sainsbury’s supermarkets plc: -using financial, operational and business performance analysis to compare them against their competitors.
- Analyse its position in the industry before and during the credit crunch: - they are currently experiencing increased sales during a recession.
- Investigate the reasons why Sainsbury’s is not the market leader: - they were the pioneers of the industry and now they are struggling to maintain third position ranking.
Put together recommendations for Sainsbury’s on opportunities available to them that could lead to potential growth and increase customer loyalty: suggest possible solutions and strategies that could help rebrand and reposition them in the industry.
Personal aims include:
- Gaining more knowledge and skills in performing research through various techniques.
- Complete a compulsory component to secure an MSc degree in International Management.
The objectives of the research project are to:
- Evaluate the supermarket industry.
- Examine the role of Sainsbury’s in the industry.
- Establish if there are still market growth opportunities.
- Accessing the impact of the credit crunch on the industry. Reason behind the recent increase in sales during the credit crunch.
- The effectiveness of their marketing strategy and its impact on their sales.
- The role and contributions of operations to Sainsbury’s.
Sainsbury’s has recently been losing customers to discount stores like Aldi and Lidl who offer lower value products at cheap prices and since then the company has rebranded and improved on its financial and operational performance but has still not caught up with the market leader. Their own brand ‘basics’ is a core strength to the business but they seen to be losing the battle of drawing consumers to purchase upscale and premium products from them.
Sainsbury’s grew rapidly after its first store was opened but suffered great losses after the Second World War when turnover fell drastically but the company evolved and grew once again till they experienced a change in management style in 1992. David Sainsbury and his successors made great decision mistakes under their administration including the rejection of branching into non-food retailing amongst others. During this downturn, their competitors grew rapidly. An opportunity that needs s to be explored is the increase in demand for organic products while striving to minimise the threat of their lack of international market exposure. It is important to point out that porters 5 forces has some weakness of been static, lacks guidance on how to define an industry and not forward looking.
With these flaws, it is also considered to be a useful tool in identifying threats to profitability, strategic planning to outperform rivals and helps to identify less competitive segments. A limitation to the report will be the sample size used which will be small compared to the total population and maybe income, age and taste sensitive. The result from the survey will be biased because it will be focused in the south west region of the UK and only few stores will be used.
Methodology and Methods
The research aims will be achieved with a combination of primary and secondary research. The research method will be reviewing the literature on the supermarket industry with its focus being on Sainsbury’s.
This will be achieved from the use of secondary data collected from textbooks and journals through Royal Holloway university library and other relevant resources including the use of commercial databases and internet search engines. The dissertation will adopt a case study method. This report will use qualitative and quantitative data as sources of primary research. An analysis of original documents will be utilised including carrying out a small sample survey of 30 individuals each for Sainsbury’s and its competitors. This will entail the use of questionnaires with closed questions imputed into Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Telephone and face-to-face interviewing techniques will also be used based on having good and reliable contacts within the companies.
Data will also be gathered from electronic sources, books, journal articles; news achieves and interviews to. A categorisation approach will be adopted where all data collected are grouped according the topic area best suited for its analysis. This report will examine the financial and operational performance of Sainsbury’s in comparison with its competitors. The use of financial information gathered from secondary research, Sainsbury’s and its competitors (such as audited reports) which are less biased will be used to measure the performance of the business. The financial performance will be evaluated using the following: Ratio analysis, Competitor analysis and Financial statements.
The operational performance will be analysed by studying the following: Distribution networks, Product quality, Pricing strategies, Promotion strategies and Store location. The report will use the 4-stage model theory to rate the position of Sainsbury’s operation. This will determine where they fit into the model and how to further develop other aspects of their processes which could act as a support to gaining competitive advantage. Strategic analysis theory will be used to evaluate the strategic position of Sainsbury’s in the supermarket industry. These theories will include: Swot analysis, Pest analysis, Porter’s five forces and Risk analysis.
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