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Four Questions to Determine if Your International Expansion Strategy is on Target

BY CSA STAFF

By Alex Evans and Andrew Rees, [email protected]

The sluggish American economy has many retail executives looking abroad to jumpstart growth. But varying regional consumer preferences, competitive and cultural differences, and increased management and operational challenges require tough choices when determining which countries to enter at the expense of other attractive markets. Establishing a successful international growth strategy requires a series of trade-offs to identify which markets you target first and how you enter these new regions.

Because it’s rare that one prospective market will receive a high score across all of your market entry criteria, senior executives typically need to select a new region by evaluating a series of trade-offs among the final list of countries being considered. The four most common trade-offs are:

Trade-off 1: Market size versus market growth
Market size is a key consideration, as larger markets typically have slower GDP growth than some emerging nations. France and Italy are among the 10 largest countries based on GDP, but are also among the slowest growing of the IMF’s Top 50 largest economies. By contrast, Brazil, Russia, India and China (known collectively as the BRIC markets) are alluring prospects due to the size and growth projections of their economies.

Companies need to decide the priority of near-term market opportunity versus long-term growth potential. Entry into a large market with relatively low growth may require company leaders to evaluate success over the long haul, not the next fiscal year.

Trade-off 2: Market growth versus market risk
Larger, more mature economies such as Germany and Canada receive high marks for ease of doing business, but have relatively modest annual growth. BRIC markets have significantly faster economic growth, but the business terrain can be more difficult to navigate. Still another group of smaller, business-friendly markets with more than 7% GDP CAGR – including South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand – possess their own advantages and challenges.

Trade-off 3: Global brand consistency versus tailoring to local appeal
Once a company identifies a new country, key issues to address include consumer demand generation, competitive positioning, channel strategy, regulatory issues and the supply chain.

Defining a branding strategy internationally will depend on the strength of the existing brand, local brand awareness and local preferences. To decide, companies should conduct in-market primary consumer research to better understand how the brand will be best received by new consumers.

Faulty assumptions that a successful blueprint in one country can replicate growth in another can be costly.

Wal-Mart Stores has had mixed results with its international expansion efforts. The company’s Wal-Mart de Mexico has become Mexico’s biggest retailer, and it has also established a significant market position in many other countries. But not even the world’s largest retailer is immune to missteps. In 2006, Wal-Mart sold its 85 stores in Germany at a loss of approximately $1 billion and also pulled out of South Korea the same year. The retailer’s challenges in these countries included not fully understanding cultural norms and or tailoring the shopping experience (layout and product selection) to customer needs.

Other retailers are launching entirely new stores to reach untapped demographics, such as H&M’s plans to launch a new store brand, called “& Other Stories,” in select European countries that are reportedly targeting affluent women.

Trade-off 4: Speed-to-market and cost efficiency versus control
The most effective distribution strategy depends on multiple factors, and examples of different models include:

  • Shop-in-Shop: Clothing and apparel provider Christian Dior distributes its products through licensed distributors, manufacturers and exclusive boutiques. The company distributes and markets its products internationally in Asia, Europe and the United States.
  • Owned Retail: Furniture manufacturer IKEA sells its products in more than 300 company-owned stores in 35 countries. Additionally, the company is also using the franchising model to establish retail operations in new regions.

Building bridges to new markets
Unfortunately, many companies build a market expansion framework using faulty assumptions that would later collapse under the weight of inadequately understood market dynamics. “Standing pat” can also incur opportunity costs that can leave companies at a significant disadvantage vs. more aggressive competition. A hesitation in market entry can give cede first-mover advantages to global competitors and make it much harder to enter regions later that already have entrenched competitors.

Because international market opportunities are increasingly pivotal to growth, companies that have the ability to analyze and enter new markets quickly can have a significant advantage over those who hesitate. Equally important, successful global organizations will embrace a new level of flexibility and agility to adapt to new market opportunities and evolve as these countries mature and grow.

Alex Evans is VP of L.E.K. Consulting; Andrew Rees is VP, and retail and consumer products practice leader of L.E.K. Consulting. Please contact L.E.K. at [email protected] for additional information.


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Survey: Consumers saving up for the holidays

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Consumers are planning ahead for the holidays, with 51% saying they have set aside the cash needed to complete their shopping lists, according to Accenture’s annual consumer holiday shopping study.

The Accenture holiday shopping survey shows that consumers are expected to spend an average of $582 on holiday shopping this season, and 23% plan to spend more than $750. Half (52%) expect to increase their spending by $250 or more. However, only 5% say they expect to be “extravagant” in their holiday shopping, and only 8% said they would “splurge”.

This year’s survey also found that half (52%) of consumers would be willing to shop online on Thanksgiving Day if retailers offer discounts, and 53% plan to shop on Black Friday, which would reverse a three-year trend of declining interest in Black Friday shopping indicated by Accenture’s previous surveys. In 2011, the survey showed that only 44% of respondents were interested in shopping on Black Friday, down from 47% in 2010 and 52 percent in 2009.

“The U.S. consumer refuses to be counted out and is entering this holiday season better prepared and more willing to open his or her wallet,” said Chris Donnelly, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Self-sacrificing will be down and spending will be slightly up, however, our research also shows that shoppers will remain disciplined in their spending. They will have a desire to maximize the value of their dollar and a hunger for discounts, which will put pressure on retailers’ profits and margins. Retailers need to focus on creating in-store excitement, providing standout products and services, and delivering a seamless experience regardless of which shopping channel the customer uses.”

In order to find the best deals, many shoppers (56%) admit that they will likely to participate in “showrooming” this holiday season, which means that after seeing a product in a physical store, they would search online for the best price and then purchase online. Twent-seven percent of these same shoppers say they would likely make the purchase online, using their smartphone or tablet, while they are still out shopping.

Accenture’s survey offers evidence that pressure on consumers’ finances may be easing as fewer people are planning to cut back on spending for themselves (40%, compared with 46% in 2011 and 52% in 2010).

Further, out of the 63% of consumers who expect to spend the same on their holiday shopping this year, the survey indicates a more positive outlook than last year. Twenty-four percent of those consumers say they are spending the same because living expenses have increased, compared with 34% in 2011. Also, fewer consumers have concerns about the economy (23%, compared with 30% in 2011), and fewer believe that they have less discretionary income this year (30%, compared with 34% in 2011).

Discounts and promotions on holiday gift items remain a driver for the vast majority of shoppers, cited by 82% as important, a slight decrease to the 93% who said the same in 2011. Three quarters of respondents (78%) say that at least half of their holiday shopping purchases will be discounted items, and half (50%) will be looking for a discount between 20% to 40% off the original product price.

Other results from the survey include:

  • Tablets and smartphones will be used by 25% of consumers to buy holiday gifts;

  • One-third (34%) of respondents say they will likely shop on "Cyber Monday;"

  • Three quarters (75%) of shoppers say they will buy gifts at discount retailers; and

  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) of U.S. consumers plan to shop between Black Friday and the end of November.

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FINANCE

Deloitte holiday survey: Holiday shoppers’ spirits bright

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Shoppers are in a good mood heading into the holiday season, with the number of consumers planning to spend less on the holidays (37%) at the lowest level since 2006, according to Deloitte’s 27th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends. One-half (50%) of consumers surveyed expect the economy will improve next year, up from just one-third (33%) heading into the holiday season last year.

"Consumers appear to be turning a corner and are more confident about the economy," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and retail & distribution sector leader. "Recent improvements in housing, employment and the stock market may have buoyed their spirits, but their optimism is somewhat tempered as they keep an eye on energy costs and possible tax increases.”

Survey respondents’ gift spending remains similar to last year at $386, down just slightly from $395 in 2011. Omnichannel shoppers may bring retailers the most holiday cheer: The average gift spend among consumers surveyed who plan to hit the Internet, their smartphones and stores this holiday season is $600 – a healthy 71% higher than those who plan to shop only in stores.

The shopping season, however, is not without its potential challenges for retailers. One-quarter (24%)) of survey respondents will delay their shopping until the election has been decided. But the outcome is unlikely to soften holiday budgets. One-half (50%) of consumers indicate the election will not change their spending plans and 23%s remain undecided whether the election will affect how much they spend.

Gift cards/certificates top the list of items surveyed consumers wish to receive are gift cards/certificates (45%), followed by (43%). When purchasing gifts, 51% of shoppers indicate they plan to buy clothing, and 47% plan to buy gift cards/certificates, followed by electronics (35%) and books (34%).

When shopping for the holidays, 51% plan to head to discount stores, followed by the Internet (45% ), making these the top two shopping destinations again this year.

The hunt for bargains remains a holiday tradition, according to the study, with 44% of shoppers indicating that because they expect merchandise will eventually go "on sale," they will only buy sale items. Some 38% also expect store associates to match prices.

"Consumers have come to expect value at a good price, and the stakes are high for retailers to keep promotions fresh throughout the season," Paul said,

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