Example Business Essay: The Structure of the Retail sector

Example Business Essay: The Structure of the Retail sector
In conducting the research for this coursework a number of sources of data have been used. In the first instance, the bulk of the research conducted has been done making use of secondary sources of research, including books, journal articles, company annual reports and items from the business and trade press. Secondly, where relevant the researcher has also made use of a number of contacts within the retail sector which have facilitated primary research into a number of the companies which have been used as case study examples in the coursework. Primary research was conducted in the form of a number of informal style interviews with a relevant management level employee of the organisations in question.
At present the UK may be seen as having a wide variety of retailers all with a range of corporate and organisational objectives. In general terms, the UK retail sector may be divided and segmented on the basis of product type. Major retail groupings include the food retail segment, clothing segment and other non-food based segments which include electronics, DIY and other forms of specific fast moving consumer goods (FMCG). Those operating within such product segmented retail segments range in size from single one man operations with a sole trader legal status to large multi-national retail companies offering standardised products and services on an international basis.

In addition to these core segments, one should also consider the not for profits retail segment. This includes a wide range of retailers for whom the objective is the generation of a surplus rather than a profit. The surplus is then used to fund the underlying objectives of the not for profits organisation, usually associated with a charitable cause . Whilst the not for profits sector is often associated with low end cost leadership retail models this is not the only model used. Recent developments have seen not for profits organisations such as Oxfam embracing the premium end of the segment with the opening of the organisations flagship Bond Street store . In addition, other organisations such as the Co-operative bank offer a range of financial products and services within the retail banking sector which are of comparable quality to those of the for profits retail banking and financial services sector .

One bone of contention may be to consider the supermarket segment as a separate sub-segment of the retail sector altogether. Whilst the supermarket sector may be seen as having its origins in the food retail sector, the consideration is that such businesses have in recent years become diversified businesses which only retail food and food related products as a part of their total business. In actually fact the true success of many in the modern supermarket sector relies on the ability of such businesses to be able to market a wide range of diversified products from food to financial products and services.

Sales trends:

The UK retail sector is worth an estimated £265bn annually which accounts for 8% of the entire countries GDP, this is estimated to grow to £312bn by 2011 . Of the total retail sector, a large part of the sales come from the food based sub segment, however the total retail segment is made up of a wide range of retailers marketing a variety of goods including food, clothing, electronics and other fast moving consumer goods.

A present, due to the recent economic downturn, sales within the UK retail sector are seeing their slowest rate of growth since April 2006 at just 2.3% higher than a year ago . Despite this down turn in the rate of growth a more positive view would be that despite difficult trading conditions growth in the sector has been maintained, with the sector not suffering the consequences of a contraction in sales. In considering how the economic downturn has affected the retail sector there are multiple views. Some, such as Anagboso and McLaren indicate that non-food retailers have done better in the recession as a function of falling prices in the underlying input goods, which has lead to a boost in profits. Others argue that it is the food retail sector which has been more resilient due to the necessity nature of the goods sold by incumbent suppliers.

Location and Size:

Considering the location and size of retail outlets, this is an area which has seen a large transformation in recent decades. In past eras, the high street was the focal point of the consumer retailing experience, with an emphasis placed upon the presence of many small to medium sized stores located within the centre of towns and cities.

However, over time the retail model as shifted with stores becoming every larger in physical size and the range of goods offered to consumers . As such, this has lead to a pattern of retailers moving into out of town locations in which large scale stores are opened using a hypermarket or warehouse format. Whilst there has been much criticism of retailers for abandoning the high street in favour of more convenient and easy to service out of town locations. One consideration is that such larger establishments and shift in location mirrors the changing nature of society, which has seen an increase in car ownership and a preference for standardisation of goods and services offered on a national basis .

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