Home Depot is not the first company to find out that the strategy that worked well back home does not work in a foreign country. Wal-Mart failed in Germany not realizing that the competitive landscape was different. Starbucks failed in Australia, closing most of its shops because the Australian consumer was used to much sophisticated coffee. The WSJ journal reports on the changes in the Home Depot China strategy after failing to implement the previous one successfully.
Home Depot Learns Chinese Prefer ‘Do-It-for-Me’
The largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, which entered China in 2006, has struggled to gain traction in a country where cheap labor has stunted the do-it-yourself ethos and apartment-based living leaves scarce demand for products like lumber.
Home Depot conceded that it misread the country’s appetite for do-it-yourself products. “The market trend says this is more of a do-it-for-me culture,” a Home Depot spokeswoman said of China.Home Depot is shaking up its strategy by focusing on specialty stores. Three months ago, it opened one paint-and-flooring store and one home-decorations outlet in the northern port city of Tianjin to cater to specific needs and shopping preferences shown by Chinese consumers, the spokeswoman said. It also plans to launch online operations with a Chinese partner, she said, without naming the company.
Home Depot debuted in China with a 12-store acquisition six years ago and the number has since dwindled as it found that Chinese consumers differ from their global counterparts. As Swedish furniture giant IKEA discovered, Chinese consumers will pay for people to do the work for them. Several years ago, the furniture store added services to help customers assemble their furniture.
Home Depot’s closures will cause the company to take a $160 million after-tax charge in the third quarter, a company statement said. The charge will be equal to about 10 cents per diluted share, and will include the impairment of goodwill and other assets, lease terminations, severance and other charges associated with closing the stores.
Neal Pancholi drew my attention to this interesting letter by Bill Gates. It shows that Gates in 1985 was sill open to making his fortune my selling Mac software rather than dominating the next generation OS.
To: John Sculley, Jean Louis Gassée
From: Bill Gates, Jeff Raikes
Date: June 25, 1985
Re: Apple Licensing of Mac Technology
cc: Jon Shirley
Apple’s stated position in personal computers is innovative technology leader. This position implies that Apple must create a standard on new, advanced technology. They must establish a “revolutionary” architecture, which necessarily implies new development incompatible with existing architectures.
Apple must make Macintosh a standard. But no personal computer company, not even IBM, can create a standard without independent support. Even though Apple realized this, they have not been able to gain the independent support required to be perceived as a standard.
It is useful to compares this to Jack Welsh and Steve Jobs in his later years (1997-2011) when he was much more focused on creating products that would sell in large numbers.
The leaders of Blackberry did not realized that the iPhone was a real threat until their marketshare had been decimated. The smartphone market is moving so fast that leaders quickly quickly becomes losers because the cannot change quickly enough. The NY Times reports today:
At the time the first iPhone appeared in 2008, RIM had successfully moved the BlackBerry into the broad consumer market from its base of government and corporate customers. But the company was totally unprepared for the popularity of a phone that lacked a physical keyboard and ran thousands of applications — in effect a versatile Web-connected handheld computer.
RIM’s co-chief executives were initially dismissive of the challenge from Apple, and Mr. Balsillie boasted that the iPhone would enhance RIM’s fortunes by increasing awareness of smartphones.
But the iPhone introduced two broad changes to the smartphone market that had severe consequences for RIM and other phone makers, including Nokia.
The iPhone and its apps shifted the emphasis from hardware to software. Then, the iPhone’s popularity led corporate information technology departments, which once allowed only BlackBerrys to connect to their e-mail networks, to support employees’ iPhones. The arrival of Android-based phones from a variety of manufacturers only compounded RIM’s woes.
Read full story here.
Related: The New Yorker on BlackBerry’s troubles.
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