The author of this report is asked to look at a competitive market and its main business that leads or otherwise exemplifies the sector. The sector that will be looked at is retail. The far and away leader of this retail market is Wal-Mart but they have three competitors in the form of Target, Kroger and K-Mart/Sears, that each compete against Wal-Mart in their own way. Despite the fact that they are in the same general line of business, they each have their own niche that they target.
Niche of Each Business
Wal-Mart’s clear objective is to sell in bulk at low prices. They deal heavily in the grocery and hardline sectors and are very aggressive discounters in both markets. In half a century, they have risen a nascent retail to a worldwide juggernaut that employs more than a million people in the United States alone and nearly two million worldwide (Wal-Mart, 2013). Target is perhaps the most similar to Wal-Mart in that many of their stores are “super” stores that sell both groceries and hardline goods. However, Target and Wal-Mart are clearly different in their overall image. Target sells a lot of the same discount goods as Wal-Mart but they also sell some slightly more upscale goods that Wal-Mart does not offer and their stores are often lauded as being more clean and more free of riffraff than Wal-Mart (Target, 2013).
Kroger has traditionally been a grocer only but they have most certainly made a foray into hardline goods in recent years, especially in their larger stores. Their prices tend to be higher than Wal-Mart and Target but Kroger does good business despite that. There are three main differences between Kroger and the first two retailers mentioned. First, Kroger is a grocer first and a hardline goods seller second. Wal-Mart and Target are the other way around although this is shifting with all three of the companies. Second, Kroger operates under several different names depending on region including the names City Market, Dillon’s and King Soopers. Lastly, Kroger operates its own chain of gas stations that are linked to the discount card program that Kroger runs through its stores (Kroger, 2013).
The last competitor is the K-Mart/Sears conglomerate. Both K-Mart and Sears have been near-death at one time or another but when K-Mart faltered about ten years ago, K-Mart and Sears actually merged together. Traditionally, and to this day for the most part, Sears is more of a department store like Dillard’s and JC Penney while K-Mart is more like Wal-Mart and Target, although their grocery offerings are scant compared to Target and Wal-Mart’s grocery-laden store locations. Even so, some Target and Wal-Mart locations remain mostly hardlines, like K-Mart, with staple grocery items like snack, drink and milk products (K-Mart, 2013)(Sears, 2013).
Overall, all four of the businesses do decent to great business, although the K-Mart/Sears conglomerate is struggling along with a few other store chains like JC Penney. However, all four businesses have concerns on one level or another. Wal-Mart is generally the juggernaut although they are also the industry pariah even though they do much the same thing in terms of hiring patterns and what-not as other firms. Wal-Mart is condemned for hiring part time more than they should to avoid full-time benefits but all retail outlets do that one level or another due to the ease of replacing departing workers given that the job does not require a lot of skill.
Wal-Mart is all about marketing the most goods they can in bulk amounts and at good prices. Specialty items of any sort will possibly not be found at Wal-Mart but any sort of common item like a gallon of milk, a hammer or a storage tote can definitely be found at Wal-Mart. Other stores cannot brag as much about that. Target has slightly inferior, but still pretty good, selection compared to Wal-Mart but this is emblematic of a firm that markets to a slightly higher economic quintile than Wal-Mart and their product mix makes that quite clear. Kroger is still in its nascent stages as a hardlines seller but they are doing quite good so far with the offerings they have given. They will probably never match Wal-Mart or Target in the hardlines sector, at least not in the near-term, but the long-term might be much more fruitful. As for K-Mart/Sears, the duality offering of a traditional discount retailer and a department store under the same envelope allows the collective company to diversify and remain flexible. Department stores tend to falter a bit more during recessions while discounters tend to thrive more when times are rough. This is something that department stores with no discounter wing can say. Examples of companies without this flexibility would include Kohl’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom’s and Macy’s.
As far as how their communications match their methods, Wal-Mart has been doing ads as of late challenging people to compare prices with other retailers so as to see how good and low their prices are. Wal-Mart is obviously the price king and they are trying to exploit that. To that end, they do a great job. Target mimics Apple in that they focus on portraying an image and being trendy more than anything else. The wrapping paper does match the present because Target stores do sell more high-end goods without getting too pricy. In addition, their stores are cleaner and the hustle and bustle of their stores never approaches that of Wal-Mart except on days like Black Friday where a rush of customers is the norm.
Sears ads are pretty rare but K-Mart hypes its use of layaway, something even Wal-Mart does not do anymore except during the holidays, as being a reason to shop at their stores. Kroger uses its ads as of late to hype lower prices and quality service. The assertions about prices ring a bit hollow because the author of this report shops all the time both at Kroger stores and Wal-Mart’s stores for a number of years and Kroger’s prices are noticeably higher than Wal-Mart and this has not changed in recent months and years.
For the most part, all four retailers have an established line of marketing and positioning that they engage in, either in actual ads or at the stores themselves, and most to all of it (depending on the store chain in question) matches the underlying market niche that they inhabit. At the end of the day, a person’s economic class and preference will often drive where they shop but as long as there are enough people in a certain microcosm of society or income level to market to, it works just fine. For example, people that are living paycheck to paycheck will probably pick Wal-Mart over Target but people that think Wal-Mart stores are nasty and too busy will probably opt for Target if given those two options.
In the end, all four chains are positioned quite well although they all have their own issues here and there. Some of the issues are based on inadequacies in their business model and others relate to a disconnect between the marketing message and the actual conditions in the stores. However, it is clear that they are doing just fine more often than they do not or they would not be enjoying the success that they are.
K-Mart. (2013, September 26). Kmart – Deals on Furniture, Toys, Clothes, Tools,
Tablets & TVs. Kmart – Deals on Furniture, Toys, Clothes, Tools, Tablets & TVs.
Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.kmart.com
Kroger. (2013, September 26). Kroger. Kroger. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.kroger.com
Sears. (2013, September 26). Sears – Online & In-Store Shopping: Appliances, Clothing & More. Sears – Online & In-Store Shopping: Appliances, Clothing & More.
Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.sears.com
Target. (2013, September 26). Target: Expect More. Pay Less. Target: Expect More.
Pay Less. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.target.com
Wal-Mart. (2013, September 26). Walmart.com: Save money. Live better. Walmart.com:
Save money. Live better.. Retrieved September 26, 2013, from http://www.walmart.com
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