Sears Vs. Wal-Mart

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Sears vs. Wal-Mart
Sears and Wal-Mart are both nationwide retailers, but their similarities are only skin deep. Sears started to lose its dominance in the early 1980s. In an attempt to boost the dwindling market share, Sears started to issue proprietary Sears Card, which gave customers payment flexibilities. A new slogan focusing on the "softer side of Sears", and a revised product mix, were created to appeal to the middle-class female shoppers.
On the other hand, Wal-Mart focused to achieve efficient operations, vertical integrations and high bargaining power, which allowed a low cost approach. The slogan "Always low prices" was realized by Wal-Mart’s ability to deliver high "value for money" to customers across genders. Wal-Mart
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With 41 million active Sears Card accounts, Accounts Receivable Turnover (A/R turnover) is important.
· Wal-Mart employed a low cost strategy, it’s important to assess Wal-Mart’s operational efficiency. Inventory turnover ratio is crucial in its profitability. Return on Asset (ROA) and Working Capital Turnover can measure management effectiveness in asset usages. Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC) shows how long the company’s cash is being tied up by its current operations.
Financial ratios are important in assessing the two companies’ performances. Referring to Exhibit A and B, we see that Sears relied heavily on debt financing. Although its 1997 ROE was high, it had a 300 days cash conversion cycle and a slow A/R turnover ratio. After evaluating various ratios, we concluded that the driving force behind Sears’ profitability was its proprietary card business. For a retailer, a strategy of using flexible payment options to boost sales is not a viable long term solution. The slow A/R turnover and negative operating cash flow cause concerns. On the other hand, Wal-Mart had a quick cash conversion cycle of 91 days, and a working capital turnover of 24/yr (vs.10/yr for Sears). These ratios represent a retail company with sound fundamental strategies, as well as the implementation and execution of those strategies. The financial ratios gave us insights into the companies’ operating and financing strategies, putting the two companies’ annual results into
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