You are on page 1of 7

RNG STRATEGY ALERT

Oct 2009
Understanding Discounters: 6 Basic Principles
Hello:

In our report published on February 2009 we introduced the notion of a set of retailers operating under an
emerging discounter segment as the number of distressed shoppers in the US climbed rapidly. Today, amidst what
RNG expects will be a long & slow recovery, many retailers & CPGs continue to adapt their strategies to
target distressed shoppers.

Discounters have dealt with this type of shopper for years and have internalized a set of core principles that
allowed them to grow in this environment. If the duration of the recovery takes longer than anticipated it is likely
that others in the industry will look more closely into understanding & tapping into the discounter channel
& its business practices.

Read on for rapid view into the core principles that allowed the discounters to emerge during the downturn. For
more information you can also download our latest Curriculum presentations on this topic.

Kind regards,

Aaron Chio
Senior Analyst
RetailNet Group

Enablers: What's giving rise to the discounters?


In our last report we talked about the distressed shopper -- accounting for close to 1 in every 4 people in the US
today. In addition, roughly 9 million jobs have been lost in the US during this economic downturn. According to
the Wall Street Journal, assuming the average monthly pace of the most recent expansion, it would take 86
months (until December 2016) for the US to regain the job level at the start of this recession.

There is no doubt there are millions of shoppers for who price & value is key to their value equation. This and a
number of drivers should enable the discounters to continue to grow, including:

● The rise of distressed shoppers, including shoppers who are unemployed, underemployed, fixed income,
and distressed shoppers who feel psychologically affected by the macro landscape (i.e., due to loss of
wealth in stock market or real estate, unemployment, etc)

● Proximity & closer-to-consumption patterns. Shoppers simply opting to travel less & buying closer to
their paycheck cycle by necessity.

● Real estate availability. Thousands of closings in the US have left shopping centers & real estate outlets
wide open. Retailers with strong cash flow & balance sheets should be able to benefit from this.

● Immigration patterns. Consumers migrating within the US (from higher-end zip codes to lower-end zip
codes, or from emerging to developed markets) might find it easier or more relevant to shop smaller
outlets that offer a more austere shopping experience.

● Shift from discretionary to consumables. As shoppers focus on the essentials of life they will seek
alternative outlets that match their new needs and situation more closely.
Six Principles for the Discounters
We can generally characterize the discounter's model in six basic principles (see figure below). We'll explore some
of the key characteristics of each one of them, but as you read through keep in mind that mainstream retailers
are incorporating these business practices into their day-to-day operations (see links underneath each
section to other relevant RNG reports)

(click images to enlarge)

Limited Assortment
Discounters focus on fast moving but limited number of SKU's (2,000-5,000 SKUs) & categories. Since discounters
have fewer & faster rotating SKUs they are able to gain significant economies of scale and buying power for their
core assortment, enabling them to price much more aggressively vs. retailers that have 10-20x the number of
SKUs and much slower rotation per building.

In addition, given their limited assortment, discounters need a very clear understanding of the categories &
items they want to win in and will ignore others where they can't gain a significant competitive
advantage in terms of scale, pricing, margin & positioning. For this reason, discounters have a relentless focus on
those products that really matter to shoppers.

How are mainstream retailers thinking about this? See RNG's report on Category Lifecycle Management to
understand how retailers are re-thinking their departmental & category assortments.
Low Operating Costs
The discounter's real estate & labor model is significantly different from large-box operators. A typical store will
have 5 to 10 employees that perform a wider variety of duties to keep labor costs to a minimum. In addition,
discounters typically focus their smaller boxes on suburban areas allowing them to procure lower-cost real estate
& focus on proximity-based retailing for convenience.

Inside their stores, a no frills environment that uses simple messaging & packaging (PDQ's, shelf-ready packaging,
pallets, case packs, pre-wrapped perishables, etc) is key to drive labor efficiencies (faster shelving & re-
stocking, fewer tags, signage, etc) while keeping capital expenditure investments to a minimum (no frill
environment, suburban real estate). Lastly, services & ancillary businesses are rare inside their stores as the
added complexity of these businesses are seen as incremental operating expenses.

(click image to enlarge)

How are mainstream retailers thinking about their operating costs? See RNG's report on changing retailer
economics.
Limited Merchandise-ability
Through the use of shelf-ready packaging, limited merchandising & promotional opportunities discounters are able
to limit labor expenses while driving efficiencies into their stores. At the same time, lack of clutter enhances
shoppability & navigation inside the store, making for an overall better shopping experience in these non-frills
stores.

The best discounters have branded themselves through a clear, consistent and dignified shopping experience that
gets reflected down to the product with very clear packaging and messaging that stands out on the shelf on its
own.

(click image to enlarge)

Limited Marketing
In line with their low-cost operating model, the discounter's marketing efforts are minimal. Short circulars are used
(if at all), and there is often limited promotional space & brand advertisements/displays inside the store.

One reason why discounters tend to rely less on traditional marketing to attract shoppers is the fact that their
stores attract a much broader shopping mission that includes convenience, food, and stock-up trips (Figure 1).
Real estate & location play a key role here, and as described in the low operating costs section, discounters'
business models are well aligned against this.

Figure 1: Preferred formats by shopping mission


(click image to enlarge)

Source: Carrefour presentation

Low Prices
Executing on all of the above principles allow the discounters to be the opening price point (OPP) players in the
marketplace and have substantially lower prices than their competitors. For example, Aldi's company fact sheet
says the retailer passes savings to consumers with prices up to 50% below traditional supermarkets. PriceRite says
consumers can save up to 50% off of their grocery bills.

To do this, discounters will often focus on smaller product sizes that hit a specific price (and margin) target to make
their products accessible to lower income shoppers. Oftentimes discounters will actually be more expensive on a
per-ounce basis vs. larger-sized products, but smaller sizes allow discounters to hit lower price points. These
relatively "low" prices allow shoppers to fill out their carts with little money, feeding back the value perception
that shopping this channel offers good value. Lastly, private label plays a key role in their pricing gaps and
overall positioning. (see next point)

See RNG's reports on pricing, including pricing optimization, communicating value through pricing, get real on
pricing, and our pricing update.

Like-for-like Product Quality & Offer


Key to the discounter model is a heavy focus and reliance on private label brands that offer like-for-like functional
performance when compared against vendor brands. Private label helps the retailer drive margins & in some cases
in-fill its assortment when a price/margin requirement can't be met by vendors.

At the same time, private label allows discounters to be extremely price competitive against mainstream operators
despite the fact that products will often be non-comparable because of unique SKU variations from the discounter's
private label lines. Nonetheless, discounters have become much more sophisticated about the quality of
their products & repeatability of the consumption & shopping experience when shoppers try out their
stores & brands.

The discounters have taken a very strategic approach to private label brand development and have in many
instances emerged from simply replicating national brands to innovating & creating legitimate brands of their own.
(Figure: Discounters Authority) Ultimately the key for like-for-like product quality is to surprise the shopper with
a product that is better than expected for the price.

(click to enlarge image)


Why is this important?
The discounter channel continues to grow & gain scale around the globe, both in highly developed &
advanced markets like Europe/US and also in emerging markets like Eastern Europe & Latin America. RNG
believes there is a big repositioning going on in the industry, especially on proximity-based & discount
retailing.

The discounter industry can no longer be accurately viewed simply in terms of hard or soft discounting
and limited or expanded assortment; many retailers have proven successful with large and small "first price"
assortments of branded and private label products.

In addition, there are many points of pressure that are guiding the need to adapt & evolve into new business
models to stay competitive. New business models will have to emerge based on:

● Competitive & industry pressure. Are markets reaching capacity?

● Consumer dynamics. Distressed shoppers as outlined before are switching more than ever, looking for
value wherever they can find it. That includes both inside the store, but also outside (i.e., online) of the
store.

● Financial pressure. Operating expenses continue to rise for most retailers and gross margin pressure
continues to push down (commodity prices & lower prices to lure shoppers/remain competitive)

● Entire categories will move to online. Technological advancements & changes in route to market and
paths to consumption will change entire categories & departments which will disappear from the physical
store and will move to the online world.

Connect with An Analyst


RNG Clients are reminded of our Analyst Support and Access. If you have questions, challenges, or would like help
making the RNG tools and data work for you please contact us by email, phone or through the chat function on our
site. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions about RetailNet Group's services or any of this content please contact: Mark
Byrd at (757) 270 - 3839 or Troy Beeler at (301) 312 - 6968.

Cheers!
RetailNet Group

Email Marketing by