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Study: CPG companies can improve business with better analytics

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK — The majority of consumer packaged goods companies are failing to place analytics at the heart of their decision-making process, limiting their ability to improve the customer experience and gain business advantage, according to the findings of an Accenture study.

Accenture’s analysis also suggests that, in many cases, the problem is compounded by fragmented investment in narrow programs that are not well-coordinated and fully optimized.


According to the study, "Building an Analytics-Driven Organization," more than half (54%) of CPG executives said that their company has a fully defined analytics operating model. In contrast, 9% said their company has implemented an analytics operating model in its entirety, and 15% said the plan has been only partially executed across the geographies in which they operate. In addition, 40% of the respondents said that their company has only partially defined an analytics operating model, but 14% of those CPG executives said their company has not implemented it.
 


The study indicates a mismatch between how CPG executives perceive their companies’ maturity in analytics and the actual state of their analytics efforts, according to Accenture. Although 47% of the executives described their companies as either "analytical leaders" or having "ingrained analytics," the analytics teams of many of the companies represented in the survey remain focused on "pulling data" rather than using data to develop insights. Almost one-third (32%) of the respondents admitted that their analytics employees are focused on the management of "big data." However, 9% said they have made a priority of predictive analytics, which generates information that can enhance longer-term decision-making.
  


"The research indicates that the analytics functions of many CPG companies are producing hindsight descriptions of what has happened, rather than delivering forward-looking insights that can be used to make well-informed operational, managerial and strategic decisions," said Bob Berkey, managing director in Accenture’s Consumer Goods & Services practice. "CPG companies need to focus more on implementing an analytics operating model that puts analytics-driven insights at the heart of their decision-making process. Only then will they be able to realize true value from their analytics investments and achieve increased efficiency, speed, flexibility and profitability."
  


Julio Hernandez, managing director, Accenture Analytics North America, added, "Today’s CPG industry is focused on four imperatives — a better understanding of consumers, reducing cost and increasing service levels in the supply chain, enhancing relationships with retailers and hiring and deploying the right talent. In each area, big data analytics techniques and underlying technologies can provide a competitive edge by offering actionable insights from multiple sources of data, including business, third-party and contextual information, often in real time. The greatest benefits will be achieved by companies that speed up and automate the analytics process and systematically infuse data-based insights into their operations."
 


Accenture’s study also found that many CPG executives are more focused on putting technology, rather than talent, in place to enhance their analytics capabilities. Analytics technology was named by 37% of respondents as their top priority in analytics, followed by analytics governance, at 31%. By contrast, 8% of the executives surveyed ranked talent as their top priority in analytics, and 55% ranked talent last on their list of analytics priorities. Despite the talent ranking, the survey shows that almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents are, in fact, actively hiring analytics talent, even though many said they are still defining their analytics talent needs. Two-out-of-5 executives (42%) said their current talent focus is to determine the analytics roles they need to fill, and the skill sets in greatest demand are data modelling (53%) and data mining (44%).



"Although the development of analytical capabilities and capacity is extremely important, a focus on data, methods and technology alone will not magically deliver the insights needed for competitive edge," Berkey stated. "CPG companies are investing in analytical talent, but now leadership needs to focus on instilling the right analytical culture and create, champion and sustain an analytics vision. And front-line practitioners need to combine their technology abilities with problem solving and data analysis skills to deliver bottom-line business benefits."


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Walmart sees Q4 sales increase of 1.4%

BY Mike Troy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. —  Walmart knew fourth quarter results and its outlook would be weak so it gave investors Thursday morning something more substantial to digest by announcing plans to double the number of small format stores it will open this year and an increased omnichannel focus.

Just four months after announcing plans to open between 120 and 150 small format stores under the banners of Walmart Neighborhood Market and Walmart Express the company upped its growth target to a range of 270 to 300 units. Walmart currently operates 346 Neighborhood Market stores and 20 Walmart Express stores which it said continue to deliver positive same store sales and traffic each quarter. Last year, comps for the Neighborhood Market format rose 4% and were driven by fresh food and pharmacy, according to the company. For more information on the small format expansion, read Walmart expanding small store fleet based on fresh- and pharmacy-driven growth.

The greater than expected expansion of the small formats — Walmart maintained its forecast of 115 new supercenters in 2014 — required the company to increase its capital expenditure budget for the Walmart U.S. division by $600 million to a range of $6.4 billion to $6.9 billion from a forecast provided last October that called for spending between $5.8 billion and $6.3 billion on U.S. growth.

News of the small format expansion helped soften the blow of Walmart’s worst financial performance in recent memory and an inauspicious beginning to Doug McMillon’s tenure as president and CEO of Walmart Stores. McMillon assumed his current responsibilities on Feb. 1 after former president and CEO Mike Duke stepped down and McMillon was elevated from his role as president and CEO of Walmart International.

Total company sales during the fourth quarter increased 1.4% to $128.8 billion, including a $1.8 billion negative impact related to foreign currency translation. Net income fell 21% to $4.4 billion while earnings per share fell 19.8% to $1.34 from $1.67 in the fourth quarter the prior year.

For the full year, Walmart¹s sales increased $1.6 billion to $473.1 billion, including a $5.1 billion negative impact from foreign currency translation. Net income declined 5.7% to $16 billion and earnings per share fell 3.2% to $4.85 from $5.01 the prior year.

Those numbers, while bad, had been previously announced several weeks ago when a portion of the weakness was legitimately attributed to terrible winter weather and a greater than anticipated sales impact resulting from a reduction in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That left McMillon free to look forward and offer a more positive view of the future and initiatives to drive growth.

"Comp sales improvement is a key priority, and we’ll focus on being even stronger item and category merchants, delivering value and improving our service level. We’ll remain focused on our expense structure, and innovate to improve productivity and aid our ability to deliver every day low prices. Our EDLP approach earns trust with customers and helps us keep our cost structure low,” McMillon said. “We’ll invest aggressively in e-commerce and increase our small store rollout in the U.S., as we’ve done in several other countries, to deliver value and convenience. The combination of supercenters and smaller formats closer to customers’ homes, along with e-commerce and mobile commerce, will enable us to increase our relevance for the Walmart brand around the world."

In the meantime, Walmart anticipates challenging market conditions in the first quarter and year ahead which could cause profits to fall below prior year levels. Same store sales at the Walmart’s U.S. stores and Sam’s Club are expected to be flat as the new fiscal year got off to a rocky start with more bad weather.

"We expect economic factors to continue to weigh on our outlook," said Walmart CFO Charles Holley. "Some of the factors affecting our consumers include reductions in government benefits, higher taxes and tighter credit. Further, we have higher group health care costs in the U.S. These concerns, combined with investments in e-commerce, will make it difficult to achieve the goal we have of growing operating income at the same or faster rate than
sales.”

He indicated a 3% to 5% increase in sales during the current fiscal year that was forecast last fall now looks overly optimistic and said the company expects to be toward the lower end of that forecast.

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NACDS’ Carol Kelly joins Society of Women’s Health Research board

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Carol Kelly has joined the Society for Women’s Health Research board of directors.

Kelly is an expert in healthcare policy with a distinguished career in senior government positions, corporate leadership roles and as a senior executive in several healthcare associations. Her three-year term begins April 2.

Kelly was named by NACDS to the newly created position of SVP government affairs and public policy in January 2008. At NACDS, she has worked to increase the effectiveness and profile of their federal and state legislative and regulatory activities.

Prior to joining NACDS, Kelly served as senior executive adviser of external affairs to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt. In this role, she was a key steward of priority issues, including health insurance access, value-driven health care and health information technology. She served as the main HHS liaison to the White House Office of Public Liaison and to the Partnership for Value-driven Health Care, an employer healthcare reform coalition.

Before joining the Office of the Secretary, Kelly served for two years as the Director of the Office of Policy for HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Previously, Kelly was EVP for federal legislative policy and healthcare system reform at the Advanced Medical Technology Association, or AdvaMed. She also has served in senior executive roles at other healthcare associations.

Prior to these positions, Kelly served at the Health Care Finance Administration, which was the predecessor to CMS, as acting associate administrator for policy and director of the Office of Legislation and Policy.

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