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Pisces have grown from a small stall into an international departmental chain with retail stores in both Singapore and china of a size more than 15 stores. In addition, Pisces also venture in other countries like Saudi Arabia with its retail expertise and strategy. Pisces’s store name becomes synonymous with low price products which cater the needs for people in the mid-to-low income groups.
Pisces’s core competencies and competitive advantages should be able to focus to satisfy their customers’ needs/preference so as to able Pisces to achieve above average returns. Business Level Strategies can help to achieve this focus by it actions to custom its core competencies to provide value to the target market and gain competitive advantage make the most of their core competencies. Business Level strategies are much more focusing on the market navigation, which are less about coordinating on the operation units but more about sustaining on the competitive advantage of the company.
We will need to evaluate whether Pisces business level strategies are able to custom and enhance Pisces core competencies to achieve above average returns. Pisces approaches relevant business strategies over the period to suits its customers. They clearly determine their target market segment and satisfying their needs with arrange in a line with its core competencies.
Pisces’ Resources, Capabilities and Core Competencies
To determine Pisces’ Core Competencies, we will require analysing its resources and capabilities as the foundation. Pisces resources can be determined as per follow:
• Financial Resources
Pisces have a huge financial base, where retail operations help them to generate considerable cash over period and period.
• Physical Resources
Pisces have the access to the raw material easily and effectively, especially low cost retails product manufactured in China.
• Organizational Resources
Pisces retain in its flexibility and informality association of a family managed firms by decision mostly made by Mr. Ang
• Human Resources
As company moves on, Pisces increase in its size for employees by employing people with wider expertise and experiences
• Reputational Resources
Pisces have a considerable amount of reputational in the business fields they are managing as Pisces could growth with the support of shareholders, venture capital companies and investors to willingly fund for their projects.
Through the resources listed above, we can determine Pisces capabilities as follows:
• Manufacturing Capabilities
Pisces have the capabilities to manufacture and importing products at a low cost to target on their targeted market, especially during the period from 1986-1995, where China is still a close market.
• Finance Capabilities
Pisces have the capability of having a good flowage in the operating cash where, where retail operations help them to generate considerable cash over periods with the support of their shareholders, venture capital companies and investors
• Management Capabilities
The ambitious of Mr. Ang where he has the ability to envision and to venture in various markets and diversified his business core market.
To Determine the Core Competencies of Pisces, we will require analysing the capabilities of whether it is valuable, unique or it could be leveraged wide out to many products and market as shown in Table 1.
Manufacturing for Pisces a very valuable capability, as their core business remain in depth in retailing and wholesales. Pisces are able to manufacturing low cost products in other countries such as China and Malaysia makes them competitive in the low cost products reselling in the region. China, during this particular period of 1986 – 1995, is still considered as a close market and has difficulties to actually venture in and it is even harder to start manufacturing in the region of China. With joint venture with China firms and setting up spectacles manufacturing plant in 1993 by acquiring 75% shares if Kingdom Corporation, it helps Pisces to enter the China market with relatively ease compare to others.
This particular capability is very valuable and rare in the period, left alone it is more costly to imitate as it require a huge capital to venture and also setting up relationship with the China government and it is highly un-substitutable.
Being financially strong is another strong capability of Pisces. Pisces are able to sustain in their strong financial standing, especially the fast cash movement generated in their retail and wholesaling operations. In addition, Pisces has a rather considerable standing reputation in the various business fields, where this reputation help Pisces to gain a high support from their shareholders, other venture capital companies and investors to invest in their different business ventures.
This is a very rare capability, especially for family-owned businesses where most time financial strength relies heavily only on its sole proprietor and of course, high costs to other companies as it take time and money to build up these relations.
Management is another important capability for Pisces as it requires a board of directors to have a clear sight of how Pisces is going to move on and grow in the next few years. Reasonable steps require to be taken and clear decision needed to be made. Pisces’s growth can be appreciated by the help of Mr Ang’s clear and reasonable effective judgement for Pisces
However, Management capability is not really rare as it is able to obtain fair easily, at least in Singapore due to the fact of high level of highly educated population and being financially well, Pisces will have not much problem in attaining such specialized group of management.
With the above, it is actually quite visible as Pisces core competencies are its strong financial background and the ability to manufacturing/importing competitive prices of its products.
Pisces’s Competitive Advantage
To determine Pisces’s competitive advantage, we will require analysing through the value chain of Pisces. As shown in Fig 1, we can derive Pisces’s primary and support activities as follows:
Primary Activities
• Inbound Logistics – High ability to handle imported retailing products from china and relatively low cost to actually lower its cost to the products so lower the mark up value of products
• Operations – Grouping of its imported products and package it for its target customers
• Outbound logistics –Strong positioning and strategically to retail its product to reach out its target customers.
• Marketing and sales – Not much of a concern as its product are of a pick and purchase items
• Services – Low cost product and retailing region do not require Pisces to actually focus much on this activities
Secondary Activities
• Procurement – The purchasing of raw material and manufacturing its products at a low cost are activities occur and highly related to its inbound logistics and operations.
• Technological Development – In the concern of retailing market, not much of a concern to the technological development
• Human Resource Management – rather general as other retailing business by recruiting of store assistants and managers
• Firm Infrastructure – Pisces require a relatively structured organisational structure due to the complexity in expanding overseas
Almost all activities from the value chain are sources of competitive advantage for Pisces. However, Pisces rather perform well on its inbound and outbound logistics; and procurement exceptionally well to obtain a competitive advantage in the market.
Pisces setup their retail stores geographically to reach out their target market, such as setting up stores in HDB areas to target the mid-low income market. Pisces ideally know what their customers need and bundle its advantages and values to suits its customers’ needs.
To compile the competitive advantage, we will take into considerations of core competencies and its value. Through the above, we derive Pisces competition advantages will be its strong financial background to support all its activities and its strength in manufacturing/importing of its retail and wholesaling products to its targeted customers.
Assessing Business Level Strategy of Pisces
Pisces incorporate a set of business level strategies to enhance its competitive advantages. Pisces uses its strength in low cost products by incorporating the cost leadership strategy where they set the retail price on the internal competence to have a margin which sustains both cost to customer and above average return to have a win-win situation.
Cost leadership strategy can be analysed with the help of Porter’s 5 forces model to determine on it successfulness, Fig 2.
• Rivalry
Pisces have low rivalry competition as during the period of 1986 to 1995. The major reason is the availability of low cost products from China was not common and prices of other substitution are relatively high.
• Customers
Pisces have the strong ability to offer lower price to the customers where buyers have loose much of their buying power if they choose for cheaper and similar retailing products.
• Suppliers
Pisces have the luxury of having low cost product manufactured in other less developed countries, which in terms lower the costs of bring in the products. Especially manufacturing low cost product in China, where during this period, China is still a close market. The successful of entrance into the China industry gives Pisces the ability to have a much lower cost production.
• Entrants Level
Pisces strong backing in its financial back ground able to have the ability to low the price in prevent potential entrants. Furthermore, during this period, China market is still very close, causes entrants to have difficulties in sourcing for low cost suppliers.
• Substitutes
Products offer by Pisces are of very low prices which are hard to be substitutable. Products by Pisces are much more of a substitute in the market to for high cost retailing products.
The approach of cost leadership strategy is relatively successful as it enhances its core competencies in low cost manufacturing/importing of its retail and wholesaling products. The business strategy adopted above enables Pisces to obtain a rather strategic market position in retailing and wholesaling of their departmental products especially since they were targeting on the mid-low level income market where price is an important conscious factor.
However, the cost strategy only supports retail of its core business. Pisces will require additional business strategies to venture into the globally.
Pisces adopted the vertical complementary strategic alliances with other ventures like Happy Family in Saudi Arabia and Five Rings Holding in China to enhance its position in the global retail departmental chain. The adopted strategy allows Pisces to shares values with other companies increase in its market competitive advantage.
One major gain from the strategy is the gaining of new market power and restricted market. The joint alliance between enables Pisces to venture into other region such as Saudi Arabia and China easier as these companies understand the culture of its own nation better and it help Pisces to enter restricted market such as China during this period where China is still close to other countries. The strategies adopted apparently to be successful as Pisces have strong financial background to support all the strategic alliances and the values Pisces received from these ventures allow them to enter a new entrance level to other countries.
With the uniqueness in its competitive advantages, both financially well stable and the ability to manufacturing low cost product to meet its customer needs, Pisces is able to implement its business level strategies to custom to its core competencies to generate above average returns. The successfully implementation of business strategies include the understanding of their core competencies and will help to sustain their high competitive ranking in the market.