This is the fifth part ‘Competition Sutra’ series. This series is an attempt to distill the core learnings of Bruce Greenwald’s seminal book “Competition Demystified”
Walmart had no patent, no product, no intellectual R&D pipeline and no government license, yet it has thrived in such a competitive sector as retailing- it is worth taking a look.
Walmart’s success hinged on three manifestations of the advantages a localisation strategy offers.
1. Supply Chain Efficiencies:
Walmart’s supply chain even back in 1970s was a work of art. Due to close concentration of stores, a truck plying on a single route could serve multiple stores. This reduced WMT’s overheads and led it to innovate on a very early variant of just in time supply chain.
2. Lower Ad-Spends:
The policy of localisation and concentration also led to higher efficiency in its ad programs. Since a TV station charges on the basis of per 1000 customers served, for WMT this meant efficiency if it opened more stores. This led to lower ad spends per dollar of sales made. Walmart could penetrate deeper into a community by building more stores and lowering its ad costs . In fact point #1,2 led to an overhead reduction by almost half while compared to K-Mart or Seers. Resulting in operating margins about double to that of its larger peers.
3. Executive Supervision:
To be fair to WMT, the management has always been a top class affair in the organisation. The operations were divided under different area managers, who spent 4 days of the week starting from Monday in their respective stores and held meetings with Mr. Walton in the last two days of the week. The dense concentration of the stores made it possible for the managers to spend more time in the stores than travelling between them. This in turn led to better managerial oversight and improved strategic performance.