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Monica’s Designer Handbags: Creative Marketing Decision-Making Based on Financial Analysis—A Case Study Michael T. Manion University...


Monica’s Designer Handbags: Creative Marketing Decision-Making
Based on Financial Analysis—A Case Study

Michael T. Manion
University of Wisconsin – Parkside

Karen Crooker
University of Wisconsin – Parkside

Peter Knight
University of Wisconsin – Parkside
Monica learned much about the designer apparel trade as an intern with a major retailer, and started a designer handbag business, selling through independent retailers. She practiced making sound marketing decisions using financial analysis techniques learned in college. These techniques proved useful when a regional discount chain offered a deal to sell her handbags through their stores on a trial basis. She was faced with a tough decision to accept the deal, reject it, or renegotiate it on mutually acceptable terms. Students are asked to analyze case data and to advise Monica on how to proceed with the prospective deal.

INTRODUCTION

Monica, after completing an internship with a national apparel company, decided that she wanted to exercise her creative design talents and her strong entrepreneurial spirit by starting her own fashion design business. She conducted fundamental market research, as she had learned in college, and determined that there was an unfulfilled market need for her designs in the moderately priced fashion handbags at the $100 retail price point. She also learned that the independent women’s apparel stores she was targeting require a 50% retail margin, which retailers variously refer to as a “100% markup,” or “keystoning,” to cover their own display and selling costs. Monica approached a number of independent local stores that liked her handbag design prototypes and her retail price point and would consider carrying her handbag line, but she was told consistently that area retailers purchased such moderately-priced fashion designer products through a particular apparel distributor. She, in turn, met with the well-established distributor, showed her designs, and discussed his operations. The regional distributor was interested in representing her line to his independent retailers, but indicated that he required a “20% wholesale margin,” that is, a 20% discount off the price to the retailers. Monica realized that to be successful in her new business she would have to manage her costs and contribution margins carefully and negotiate the distribution channels and retailer relationships wisely.

Monica’s Contribution Margins
Monica learned during her retail management course in college and her internship with a national retailer that she would have to generate sufficient contribution margins on her products to recover her fixed sales, general, and administrative costs of doing business, her overhead. Monica had obtained an authoritative Harvard Business School (1983) reference from her father Bill who had earned his MBA at Harvard a generation ago. In addition to this Note on Marketing Arithmetic and Related Marketing Terms, she used her college managerial accounting text (Whitecotton, Libby, and Phillips, 2013), as a more recent, second source. She determined that the contribution margin on each unit of product sold can be established by setting a reasonable price to the distributor and subtracting all variable, or direct, costs to provide each unit. Monica realized that the retail handbag market had pre-determined price points to the end consumer, e.g., $100. Her price to the distributor would be the retail price net of both the retailers’ and distributor’s margins, which motivated these partners to handle her product through their channel. Her price to the distributor had to be at least sufficient to cover the product’s variable costs, including direct manufacturing and shipping costs, and thus produce a positive contribution to overhead.

Determination of Monica’s Price to the Distributor
So, Monica sat with her tablet at her drafting board and did the necessary financial analysis.
She assumed that her $100 retail price point to the end consumer was realistic, given the confirmations she received from several independent retailers and the regional distributor. Monica also assumed that the independent retailers would require a 50% margin, and thus would markup the distributor’s price to them by 100%. So, her concern was what price she should set for the distributor. She calculated the retail unit price, the retailers’ unit margin, the distributor’s price to the retailers, the distributor’s unit margin, and an acceptable price to the distributor. She drew out on her drafting board the transaction prices and margins in a diagram, showing the relationships between all the parties in this channel.

Variable, or Direct, Unit Costs
Monica had negotiated for the production of her designer handbags with a contract manufacturer, based in Vietnam, that she had come to know through her internship. She had also arranged monthly LTL (less than truckload) shipments of each season’s new handbags directly from the factory to the distributor who, in turn, ensured that retailers’ shelves were stocked with Monica’s designs. At the volumes she projected each season, the manufacturing costs averaged $10 per handbag. Her shipping costs, at current volumes, averaged $5 per handbag. She extended her diagram to show these two direct costs and the relationship of the manufacturer and the shipper in the transaction flow. Monica could now determine her contribution margin per handbag.

Fixed Sales, General, and Administrative Costs
Monica had hired one salaried marketing person to assist her with all sales and promotions activities, including maintaining the website, entering order transactions, and running reports on a basic enterprise system. She had also retained an advertising agency, an attorney, an accountant, and a banker to facilitate all of her other general and administrative matters as needed. She rented a small office space near her residence for her design work, system and marketing operations, and business meetings. Monica estimated the total of all these fixed overhead expenses at $25,000 per month. She felt that these were all necessary business expenses and that she could grow her volume substantially with this support base in place.

Breakeven Volume and Market Share
Monica next determined the minimum volume of handbags that she would have to sell in order to cover her overhead expenses, which her seasoned accountant referred to as her “nut.” She divided her monthly overhead expense by the contribution margin per handbag, which she had calculated earlier, to determine her breakeven volume in units. She next extended this breakeven volume by her wholesale price to determine her breakeven sales volume, measured in dollars.
However, Monica also wanted some confirmation about the reasonableness of her breakeven volume expectations, and therefore sought to estimate what share of the retail market she would have to achieve in order to breakeven. Her earlier research found that the total U. S. retail market for moderately priced (that is, about $100 at retail) fashion handbags was $120,000,000 per year. Based on her findings, she calculated the total number of such bags sold at retail in the U. S. in an average month. Monica then divided her monthly breakeven volume by one-twelfth of the total annual U. S. retail market, to determine her minimum market share to breakeven.

Profit Impact
Monica, however, would not be satisfied by achieving only a financial breakeven for her enterprise. She had not taken a salary from the business so far and had invested her own capital to get the business started. She reasoned that her time was worth money and the alternative of returning to her previous employer would involve the advantages of a stable healthy income and benefits, and considerably less risk. Monica wanted her business to generate a sustainable profit, so that she could reinvest in growing her enterprise and take a steady income. She set an ambitious, initial goal of earning a profit of $50,000 per month and sought to determine what volume she would need to sell in order to reach that bottom line target. If selling the breakeven number of units per month covered the $25,000 monthly overhead expense, Monica considered how many handbags she would have to sell to generate a $50,000 monthly profit impact, beyond the breakeven.

Trade Discounts and Terms of Sales
Monica had negotiated with the distributor for a 2% discount for payment at end of month, with net amount due in 90 days. The distributor generally did not take the offered discount, but rather paid at the end of each season, as was typical in the seasonal apparel trade.

Profit Margin
Monica was soon able to achieve her goal of an average profit impact of $50,000 per month on sales to the distributor of $1,440,000 per year. She also was interested to know what the average profit margin, expressed as a percentage, of her expanded business might be, for comparison purposes.

A Grand New Opportunity
Monica next set an ambitious goal to grow her business into a $2 million company in annual sales to distributors. Soon, her sales assistant approached her while she was seated at her drafting board with some good news! A buyer for Grand*Mart, a very large regional discount retail chain, who had seen Monica’s handbag designs on her website, e-mailed an invitation to propose a contract. The Grand*Mart buyer, however, was specific about several conditions for Monica’s proposal. Monica was excited about this prospective new customer, which in addition to her independent retailer business would help achieve her new total sales goal.

Sales and Profit Impact of the New Deal
Grand*Mart would initially receive 2,000 handbags per month for three months of seasonal designs similar to Monica’s most popular handbags and stock them in 20 test stores outside Monica’s traditional territory, handling all of the transportation from the overseas factory and all of the distribution to their stores in the U. S. Grand*Mart indicated that they would pay within 90 days, as the handbags sold through their stores. They also would substantially increase their order to a minimum of 10,000 handbags per month during the second quarter, based on the success of the initial trial, and would consider carrying an “exclusive” line of Monica handbags in Grand*Mart’s entire chain, including all 100 stores. They proposed that a wholesale price of $20 per handbag would be acceptable to them under the terms and conditions, beginning with the first quarter. Grand*Mart extended an invitation to Monica to call on their Mobile, Alabama headquarters during the next week and to propose her “best and final offer” to their buyers.
Monica realized that this one initial deal would achieve larger scale and her set goal of becoming a $2 million revenue business! However, she was concerned that Grand*Mart’s suggested wholesale price was low relative to the wholesale price she received in the independent retailer channel. Monica calculated that the proposed price would cover her present direct manufacturing cost and eliminate her direct shipping costs. However, she estimated that she would have to double her existing $25,000 per month overhead expenses just to meet the initial required level of customer service that Grand*Mart specified for first quarter store advertising, customer support, and returns handling. She drew out Grand*Mart’s suggested transactions and relationships between parties in another diagram. Again, she sought to determine the unit contribution margin and the profit impact that the initial 2,000 bag per month deal, as proposed, would bring to pay the incremental overhead and drop to her bottom line each month.  
Monica, who was an optimist at heart, also was tempted by the prospective Grand*Mart order increase for the second quarter, if the initial trial quarter was successful. She envisioned the advantages of selling 10,000 handbags per month exclusively to Grand*Mart. She estimated that her overhead expenses, attributable to Grand*Mart, would grow substantially to $75,000, or three times the amount required for the initial 2,000 handbag deal. But she also wondered if she could then achieve the same profit impact just from exclusively supplying Grand*Mart, while dropping the independent retailer channel.

A Time for Serious Reflection
Monica looked at the existing and new diagrams and realized that she had some key decisions to make. She needed to decide if a) She should propose the initial 2,000 bag per month Grand*Mart deal, on the terms that they suggested, including their wholesale price; b) She should take a pass on the Grand*Mart deal, and stay exclusively with the independent retailers’ channel in which she has had success; c) She should go to Mobile and renegotiate the initial 2,000 bag per month deal, offering a “best and final” price that could be acceptable to both parties; or d) She should propose the exclusive deal to Grand*Mart, based on a successful trial and a minimum order volume of 10,000 handbags per month, beginning in the second quarter. And, importantly, she wondered what other financial and non-financial considerations (such as, cannibalization, or even loss, of her independent retailer channel by the exclusive Grand*Mart deal) she should contemplate before getting on a flight to Alabama.

Monica’s Further Research on Grand*Mart
Monica promptly went to three local Grand*Mart stores, thoroughly inspected the handbag sections, and recorded the prices of similar merchandise on the shelves. She also sent e-mail inquiries to several of her industry colleagues who knew the discount chain and the discount fashion trade well. From her field research, she garnered that Grand*Mart probably would price her handbags at $45 each, and that they would require at least a 33-1/3% contribution margin on their retail price (which also could be expressed as a 50% markup on their wholesale costs). With this intelligence, Monica was able to estimate the maximum wholesale price, after incurred costs, that Grand*Mart might be willing to pay for each handbag. With both her minimum breakeven price and their maximum wholesale price in mind, Monica was in a better position to make a decision about her “best and final price” offer alternatives. She could also estimate the incremental profit impact of her possible deals with Grand*Mart.

QUESTIONS

1. What is the incremental profit impact (in dollars per month) of the suggested initial Grand*Mart 2,000 bag deal to Monica, after the increased overhead expense of $25,000? What is the incremental profit impact of the prospective 10,000 bag order, after increased overhead expense of $75,000?
2. What are Monica’s other key financial and non-financial considerations (such as, cannibalization of the independent retailer channel) for the suggested Grand*Mart deal?
3. Should Monica propose the Grand*Mart deal as suggested? Or should she take a pass and stay exclusively with the independent retailer channel? Or should she renegotiate the initial 2,000 bag deal for the first quarter? Should she offer Grand*Mart an exclusive 10,000 deal for the second quarter?
4. What is the maximum wholesale price that Grand*Mart could be willing to pay Monica, given their probable retail price and typical margin requirements? If Monica decides to renegotiate the initial Grand*Mart deal as of the first quarter with volumes of 2,000 bags per month and incremental overhead of $25,000 per month, what “best and final” price should she propose that would be acceptable to both parties? What is the revised incremental profit impact?
5. If Monica decides to offer Grand*Mart an exclusive deal as of the second quarter at minimum volumes of 10,000 bags per month with overhead expenses of $75,000 per month, what “best and final” price should she propose that would be acceptable to both parties? What is the profit impact of this exclusive deal?

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Answer #1

Hi,

There are 3 cases against which Monica has to take a call on her decisions. To put in table below we are estimating the profit in each case:

Case I : Her initial study as how can she arrive at the break even volume of sale & the growth she wants i.e. $50000 profit from independent retailers

Case II : Additional initial offer from Grand Mart for 2000 pcs/month with the current business of independent retailer.

Case III: Go with proposed offer of Grand Mart only.

Amt in $ Case I Case II Case III
Initial / month Growth Avg. per month Independent retailer Addl. Grand Mart proposal Total Proposed by Grand Mart
Retail price / unit 100 100 100 45 75 45
Sales Units 714 2400 2400 2000 4400 10000
Sale price / unit to distributor 50 50 50 20 36 20
$ sales value 35710 120000 120000 40000 160000 200000
Manuf. Cost 7140 24000 24000 20000 44000 100000
Shipping costs 3570 12000 12000 0 12000 0
Total Mnf costs 10710 36000 36000 20000 56000 100000
Gross Margin / Contr. Margin 25000 84000 84000 20000 104000 100000
Fixed SGA costs 25000 25000 25000 25000 50000 75000
Net Margin / Profit 0 59000 59000 -5000 54000 25000

Clearly in 1st case the break even qty / month comes to $714 (SGA costs / GM per unit) = $25000 /(50-10-5) = $714.

Her 2nd objective was to achieve $50000 per month avg. profit which she did by $144,0000 sales

The 2nd case includes her analysis including her current business with independent retailer & additional proposal of 2000 handbags / month from Grand mart. In this case she can earn a net margin of $54000 as Grand Mart is giving negative returns. so after a quarter sales she would have reduced $5000 * 3 = $15000 from her profits.

In 3rd case the analysis is her move to go ahead only with Grand Mart. Here again the profit / month is still reducing.

So with current Grand Mart deal she would reduce her profits & her financial goals would not be met. So for this now we should work out the best possible price that she can offer in the given conditions:

$30 / handbag should be the best price that she can propose to Grand Mart on which they can put 50% mark up & earn

33 1/3 % contribution margin (GM). So this is the max. wholesale price that it would be willing to pay her.

So when we go back to Case II on accepting addln 2000 handbags from Grand Mart would give her profit of $74000 which is 48% higher than her current avg. output of $50000 profit / month.

And when she later on goes with same price of $30 for 10000 handbags / month then her profit would be 1,25000 which is 150% higher than her current avg. of $50000 profit / month.

Case II Case III
Amount in $ Independent retailer Addl. Grand Mart proposal Total Best offer to Grand Mart
Retail price / unit 100 45 75 45
Sales Units 2400 2000 4400 10000
Sale price / unit to distributor 50 30 41 30
$ sales value 120000 60000 180000 300000
Manuf. Cost 24000 20000 44000 100000
Shipping costs 12000 0 12000 0
Total Mnf costs 36000 20000 56000 100000
Gross Margin / Contr. Margin 84000 40000 124000 200000
Fixed SGA costs 25000 25000 50000 75000
Net Margin / Profit 59000 15000 74000 125000
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