A RMOUR T RUE R ENT? LLP.
The case of Armour TrueRent, LLP. illustrates how a smaller firm can achieve market power and survive through horizontal integration. Growth, however is only the beginning of a successful strategic process. It does not ensure long-term success, as there are numerous strategic challenges for this and other firms in similar circumstances. The firm has reached a size that could attract the attention of larger competitors. This new level of competition would increase the hostility and complexity of the external environment. Due to the new larger size, the firm will also encounter internal problems in such areas as management and logistics. Armour TrueRent, LLP.
Armour TrueRent, LLP. is a small and relatively new firm. It initially was located in the Central U.S., and was incorporated over ten years ago with more than one hundred retail rental stores. These stores appealed to the desire of consumers lacking cash or credit to rent products for a short time period. The firm struggled along, fighting problems that come from small size and inadequate cash flow. Being small meant paying high interest rates for a line of credit, and lacking clout when buying additional supplies and equipment for its stores. After nine years of slow growth, Armour TrueRent, LLP. decided to change strategies. The time appeared to be ripe for faster horizontal growth. Armour TrueRent, LLP. using financing from a friendly bank, bought out a similar-sized competitor located in its competitive area for $ 20 million in cash. In addition, it purchased 51 percent of the stock of a larger rental firm in the North-Central U.S. for $ 18 million. These actions meant that in one year it had more than tripled in size and in the market it served. It then organized itself geographically, with three layers of management below the president. Store managers reported to 55 regional managers, who in turn reported to 11 regional vice-presidents. Compensation for both regional and store managers was tied to store performance. Corporate headquarters has centralized purchasing, financial planning, personnel, training, individual store evaluations and site selection.
THE INTERNAL ENVIRONMENT
The firm has an excellent MIS system that each unit of merchandise and each rental agreement. The computer at each store is connected to the main computer at corporate headquarters. Each day’s activity is compiled for stores by region. Management has access to daily, weekly and monthly data in order to make precise decisions about personnel, about merchandise, about stores, and about regions. Since all merchandise goes directly from vendors to stores, no warehouse or storage costs are incurred. Various vendors are used to help keep merchandise prices competitive. Growth rates in revenues per store have been increasing at 18 percent a year.
The biggest weakness facing Armour TrueRent, LLP. is the inefficiencies associated with absorbing the two chains it purchased. Regional managers and store managers must learn new methods and new information-gathering guidelines. Organizational cultures are slow to change.
THE EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT
The rent-to-own industry has been consolidating for several years. The biggest problem facing the independent store or the small chain is a lack of adequate financing. Armour TrueRent, LLP. was fortunate that it found a bank to provide the cash needed for expansion. Current and future trends indicate that industry consolidation will continue. Armour TrueRent, LLP. should aggressively continue to seek acquisitions or merger partners to avoid being left out of the industry changes. If smaller firms will be squeezed out of the industry, Armour TrueRent, LLP. must pursue growth to insure survival. Current social trends appear to be growing. The U.S. continues to be an itinerant society. People move more, so they need to own less. People want to do more, but lack storage for ownership of things. Many people lack both cash and credit, so the purchase of furniture and appliances is difficult. Rentals and rent-to-own activities will continue to be a growth industry. Armour TrueRent, LLP. must take advantage of this trend to enhance per store sales and increase cash flow for repayment of bank loans.
The rent-to-own industry is highly competitive. In 1994, the ten largest firms accounted for 37 percent of the total industry sales. The rental industry must also compete with discount and department stores for customers. Another serious threat is the growth of the credit industry. Credit cards are available to almost anyone, giving people more choices when considering a major purchase. Rent-to-own stores may lose potential customers to big discount and department stores that offer easy credit or access to their credit cards. The rent-to-own industry is heavily regulated and further legislation at the national level is being considered. Restrictions on interest rates and fees, on contract language and disclosure, and on lending in general would increase costs and further limit the profit potential of the industry. Other near term costs that are expected to increase are shipping rates, taxes, fuel/energy, and paper costs. Investors will shy away from an industry where profits are falling and firms are consolidating.1 attachmentsSlide 1 of 1
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