This dissertation is about competitive strategy and how the author believes that the organisation ‘Clarks’ have used competitive analysis techniques to address the downfall in their profits, turn around sales and return to profitability.  The dissertation will also look at attitudes towards Clarks during the last 4 or 5 years and whether recent increased marketing activity, during 2004 and 2005, has changed public perception of the brand.

1.1    What is competitive strategy?

“Competitive strategy is the search for a favourable competitiveposition in an industry……to establish a profitable and sustainableposition against the forces that determine industry competition.

Two central questions underlie the choice of competitivestrategy…….attractiveness of industries……and ….the determinants ofrelative competitive position within an industry.” (Porter).

Within this dissertation the author will try to determine thecompetitive strategy used by Clarks and whether it has been asuccess.  

1.1.1    Why undertake a competitive analysis

By undertaking a competitive analysis, an organisation can determinewhere it fits within an industry and what the driving forces within theindustry are.  If a competitor analysis is also undertaken, then theorganisation can observe the tactics of the competition and make acounter or first move.  It is not the author’s intention to undertake adetailed analysis of the industry, rather to reflect on such trends andhow the effects thereof have impacted on the case study organisation,Clarks, and forced it to take measures to refocus and improve uponprofitability. 

1.1.2    Proposition

A general proposition emerges from these observations to provide focus for this study

>>That there is a link between the undertaking of a competitiveanalysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks.

This will be explored during the discussion in the literature review and by refining the aims in the following way:

1.1.3    Aims

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 

1.2    The Case Study - Clarks

The above named company was used as the basis for the author’s primaryresearch.  The dissertation will progress to give an overview of thatcompany, showing how it has used competitive strategy to move from aproduct oriented company to one that now appears to be marketing – led.

Clarks was established in 1825 when brothers “Cyrus and James Clark setup a small sheepskin slipper business in…Street, Somerset.” (  A pioneering and innovative family, the followingdecades have seen the invention of the first shoe to follow the shapeof the foot, the Desert Boot, vulcanizing rubber soles, nature formedlasts, polyurethane soles and air comfort footwear. ( Expanding it’s product ranges in the 1990’s Clarks was named by theindustry trade publication Footwear News as it’s  “Company of the Year”(   and operating profits have gone from under£1million in 1990 to £77million in 2004 (Appendix 1). 

(this paragraph from customers notes as researcher cannot access Mintelor Hoover reports as they are subscription services, as is themembership organisation Britfoot…. “Clarks is the UK market leader inshoes ahead of Marks and Spencer with both Clarks and Hoover’s BusinessInformation Authority believing Clarks competitive advantage isproducing reliable, fashionable and comfortable shoes.  ElizabethCornell Accessed 16/111/04”

Clarks remains a family run business and operates in many countries ofthe world, although ranges in each are not the same with some areas,like Australia, only selling children’s shoes. 

1.3    Approach to the research

The aforementioned aims

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 

will be tested using primary research and secondary research.

1.3.1    Primary research

The primary research will take the following approach.
1. One to one interview with Lynn Benfield, Retail Employee Relationsand Human Resource Administrations Manager, C & J ClarkInternational Ltd – 26 July 2004 
2. Semi–structured surveys between 19 March 2005 – 22 March 2005
3. Tangible observations on 19 March 2005
4. Intangible observations July 2004 – March 2005

1.3.2    Secondary research

The secondary approach will take the following approach.

1. Clarks annual report and accounts 10 years 1994 – 2004
2. Literature from various libraries/ internet to attempt to undertake a competitive analysis of Clarks.

1.4     Research Limitations

As with all research, there are limitations, those pertinent to this dissertation are as follows:

•    The author recognises that by studying competitive advantage injust one organisation that the research implications will be limited,however would wish to point out that this study is purely exploratoryand may be used as the basis for further study.
•    Clarks is a privately run business and as such there is very limited information in the public domain.
•    Barriers to access research information requiring a fee.

1.5    Project Delimitations

•    Study limited to the UK
•    Clarks brand adult shoes will be studied in isolation from children’s shoes and   sub branded.
•    No comparisons with competitors will be made   

1.6     Summary of Chapter One

This chapter gave an overview of the dissertation, namely that it wasabout competitive strategy and how the author believes that theorganisation ‘Clarks’ has used competitive analysis techniques toaddress the downfall in their profits, turn around sales and return toprofitability.  It was also stated that attitudes towards Clarks duringthe last 4 or 5 years would be reviewed by way of a survey and that theauthor would use this and the observation technique to sense whetherrecent increased marketing activity, during 2004 and 2005 had changedpublic perception of the brand.

Finally, limitations and delimitations to the approach were offered. 

2.0    Literature review

Chapter one provided the rationale for this dissertation, namely thatthere is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis andthe change in fortune of Clarks.  It was suggested that there are manyfactors which may have an effect upon these issues and which relatespecifically to the tactics used to overcome an apparent downtown inthe company’s profits.  Factors affecting these issues will bediscussed in chapter two and will incorporate literature from thefields of strategy, operations and marketing.  A company, Clarks, basedin Somerset, was stated as being a case study for the author’s researchand a brief overview of that company was given.

2.1    Clarks and the shoe market in the UK

(this paragraph from customers notes as researcher cannot accessMintel  reports or the customers interview with Lynn Benfield…. “ TheUK shoe market saw declining market values in the 1990’s but is nowseeing an increase in spending on shoes, with customers spending moreon individual pairs of shoes, like designer brands, than they hadpreviously increasing by 5.5% in 2001.(Mintel – Accessed 18/11/04).  Atthe same time shoe prices have fallen by 8% since the 90’s due to UKshoe manufacturers moving abroad to take advantage of cheap labour. Keynote predicts that shoe sales will increase over the next fiveyears.(Mintel accessed 18/11/04)” In fact, it would appear that Clarksare also going to source their manufacturing abroad.  A report on theBBC website, dated 11/01/05 has the headlines “Clarksends shoemaking in Somerset” with managers in Somerset telling staffthat “the only way the company can survive is by switching productionto the Far East.”   

(this paragraph from customers notes as researcher cannot access customers interview with Lynn Benfield…”Clarks are in the process ofimplementing a new competitive strategy consisting of a new innovativedesigners and an advertising campaign aimed at young adults (18-35)mainly utilising TV advertising and a refurbishment of all Clarksstores. (Lynn Bedfield) “
Clarks offer a huge range of shoes for adults from slippers to boots,casual wear to wedding shoes, and the traditional desert boot to thepractical office shoe.  No longer limited in colour ranges, the fashionitems closely colour match the clothes of the season and accessoriesare available.  But sustaining market share is hard in today’s market. No longer are there a handful of shoe retailers, but many retailstores, such as Next, River island and Dorothy Perkins havesuccessfully introduced shoes into their fashion ranges whilst newtrendy shoe shops such as Schuh are also becoming established withinthe shopping malls.  Moreover, sports shops, such as All Sports areintroducing casual wear into their ranges, competition is definitelynow a big factor in this market. (Observation)

Trying to address this, Clarks have introduced an awareness campaignfor their wide range of adult shoes.  Following on from the “my shoes”campaign of 2004, the current advertising campaign features aprofessional, well dressed woman, in her late twenties, trying topurvey the international appeal of Clarks shoes, “Nottingham is my NewYork” and “Preston is my Paris” the two current  campaigns, can also beobserved on

How a firm addresses the competition, is determined by it’s orientation(Miles and Snow) and so it is pertinent to this dissertation to explorethe following themes:-

1. How firms may be orientated
2. How competitive analysis can help a firm refocus
3. How advertising can raise awareness of products

2.2    How firms may be oriented

Orientation refers to the relative position that an organisation takesin relation to it’s products, services and markets (Miles and Snow). There are four main orientations, production, sales, process andcustomer.

2.2.1     Production orientation

Production orientation focuses on the company driven belief thatexcellent quality is what the customer wants over and above everythingelse.  Often associated with family run companies and owner managers,such companies tend not to undertake market research into externalcustomer needs resulting in them trying to satisfy the perceived needsof the general or production manager.  Generally scientifically based,this orientation has been the cause of decline of many successfulcompanies such as Apple computers and Harley Davison.  Danny Miller, inhis book the “Icarus Paradox” used the phrase “Craftsmen becomingTinkerers”, for whilst focusing on continually improving theirproducts, they were unaware that consumer tastes had actually changed.

The author suspects that Clarks is production oriented based on theemphasis given on their website, where much emphasis inthe ‘history’ and ‘about us’ sections are given to quality andinnovation, rather than style, fashion or customer needs.

2.1.2     Sales orientation

It is not unusual for one of the side affects of a production orientedcompany to be excess stock.  Often employing aggressive sales tactics,to move the goods, they spend a great deal of money on advertising totry and create a need and flood the market with their products, oftenat a discounted rate, to try and decrease the stock pile.  Customersare reactive to the message the company portrays, that this onetransaction is all important, rather than try and retain regular loyalcustomers.

The author believes that there has been an element of this withClarks.  Recent years have seen many sales in the stores and the Clarksvillage, opened in the early 1990’s, was a method of disposing of oldstock.  However, the author does not believe that Clarks takes atransactional approach to all customers for certainly, many parents buyClarks shoes for their children because their parents bought Clarksshoes for them.  But whether or not these parents now buy their ownshoes from Clarks is an issue to be discussed during the survey.   

2.1.3     Process orientation

Process orientation involves the company in the continual monitoring ofsystems and procedures necessary to ensure total quality management,processes deemed necessary to undertake before delivery to the customer.

With respect to this orientation, the author believes that there is astrong element of process orientation within Clarks, for whilstinnovating with new materials for soles (airwear, ) andworking on the perfecting techniques, they had probably lost site ofthe fact that fashion was becoming a key influencing decision whencustomers were purchasing shoes.

2.1.4     Customer orientation

A customer oriented business is one that puts the customer at the heartof it’s business and realigns it’s strategy, systems, structures,people and leadership around customers.  Often known as marketing-led,organisations which observe this orientation take both the needs of theinternal and external customer into consideration and concentrate oncustomer retention and lifetime value, rather than a transactionalapproach.  “The very core of marketing is the customer.  The customeris the reason for an organisations existence, and customer satisfactionis the source of the organisation’s profits.” (Fifield and Gilligan).

Recent trends had not been seeing customers buying shoes for life,rather that they were buying shoes for current fashion needs and wereprobably not looking towards keeping such for long periods.  Clarkshave tried to address this by offering a choice of fashionable rangesand trying to target customers with more disposable income.

If Competitive strategy “ is the search for a favourable competitiveposition in an industry……to establish a profitable and sustainableposition against the forces that determine industry competition”(Porter), then competitive analysis is the process by which thestrategy is analysed to ascertain whether or not the firm does have anadvantage over others in it’s industry or sector.  According to Grant,there are three main target areas for the analysis of the organisation

1.    Goals and values
2.    Resources
3.    Organisation and systems.

Grant believes that these areas need to be addressed beforeenvironmental factors are introduced, the processual approach.  Whilst Johnson and Scholes would combine 2 and 3 and introduce the environmentas the third major factor into the analysis at the start, the classicalapproach. 

For the purposes of this dissertation, the author will take the secondapproach (Johnson and Scholes) and discuss the factors pertinent to beanalysed within

1.    The environment
2.    The organisation’s resources (including competencies and capability)
3.    Expectations and purposes.

2.2.1    The environment

The environment within which the organisation operates is a “complexcommercial, economic, political, technological, cultural and socialworld.” (Johnson and Scholes)  No longer are firms, such as Clarks,operating in a local market, but on a global scale with globalcompetitors.  Whilst this dissertation aims to look at the effect onthe Clarks branded adult shoe and sales within the United Kingdom (UK),it cannot ignore trends in global manufacturing and how this hasimpacted on trends within the UK.    The research section will,therefore, look at political, economic, social and technological (PEST)factors and their impact on Clarks.  It will also comment on the natureof the environment and try to ascertain an understanding of theimmediate environment in which it operates, using Porter’s “FiveForces” analysis “so as to provide an understanding of what forcesinfluence degrees of competition and opportunities for buildingcompetitive advantage” (Johnson and Scholes).  The five forces are
1.    Threat of entry
2.    Threat of substitutes
3.    Bargaining power of suppliers
4.    Bargaining power of buyers
5.    Competitive rivalry

 A competitor analysis will not be undertaken as it does not come within the scope of this dissertation.     

2.2.2    The organisation’s resources (including competencies and capabilities)

How well the organisation operates in it’s environment is dependantupon the internal and other resources available to it and theefficiencies within which they operate.  In order to better understandresources and their dependencies, Porter developed the concept of thevalue chain, a diagnostic tool for determining competitive advantage bylooking at how internal factors affect the company’s competitivescope.  Supported by value added activities (primary and secondary) thevalue chain should add value to the firm.  It is important to analysethe value added activities and managing the linkages within the valuechain, because these are the areas which can often be improvedupon.     Primary activities relate to the firms infrastructure, humanresource management, technological developments and procurement. Secondary activities support the primary ones and include logistics andtransport, operations, marketing, sales and service.  Provided that theresources are sufficient, Porter argues that the firm should be capableto “perform at the level which is required for success” (Johnson andScholes) thus ensuring a “strategic fit”.

As with all organisations, there will be activities which are pertinentto it’s success, these are known as core competencies.  It will beprudent to ascertain Clark’s core competency/ies because awareness ofthis aspect enables an organisation to better exploit such forcompetitive advantage and future success. 

2.2.3    Expectations and purpose

An organisation has many stakeholders interested in it and thesestakeholders have a direct impact on the profitability of thecompany.   Johnson and Scholes maintain that consideration should begiven to the following questions:  “whom should the organisation serve,how the direction and purpose should be determined?”  It is possiblethat the misunderstanding/ misinterpretation of one or the other of theposed questions that can lead to an organisation’s downfall, therefore,if an organisation is to adapt for the future then these questions needto be addressed. 

It would not be unusual for a traditional company to need to adapt tocontinue profitably in the future.  Established 170 years ago, at thebeginning of the industrial revolution, Clarks as an organisation musthave been a party to considerable change.  The fact that it continuesto trade and is entering the global market  ( shows thatit must have been forced to adapt for the future, but whether this wasa gently emerging adaptation or a sudden change, would need to beexplored further.  Either way, the organisation would need tocommunicate effectively with it’s existing and potential externalcustomers. 

2.3     What is advertising?

“Advertising is the most visible….component of the communicationsmix…defined as the paid presentation and promotion of products orservices through mass media such as television, radio and newspapers.”(Doyle)

Advertising may be used for a number of reasons with the objective toincrease market share and thereby profits high up the agenda as well asraising brand awareness and perception of the brand.  Most important isthe identification of the target audience and then successfullycommunicating to them, paramount to the success of an advertisingcampaign.  It would not be uncommon for such advertising action to takeplace following a strategic review.  

Dr Steinbrecher (Doyle) “offered ten commandments which successful advertising messages usually obey

1.    Attract attention
2.    Visual clarity
3.    Concentration
4.    Comprehension and credibility
5.    Positive emotions
6.    Unity of style
7.    Match the clients world
8.    Differential advantage
9.    Images rather than words.”

Some of the above will be tested in the research section of the dissertation.

2.4     Summary of chapter two.

In chapter two, the author explored, by way of a literature review, therationale that there was a link between the undertaking of acompetitive analysis and the change in fortune of Clarks.  An overviewof Clarks was given and the author tried to determine it’s originalbusiness orientation.  Competitive analysis and turnaround techniqueswere taken from the fields of strategy and operations and the benefitsof marketing advertising discussed. 

Having reviewed the literature in respect of the following research aims:

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 

The author suggests that for a company to become successful, havingexperienced a downturn in profits, a complete strategic review isnecessary.  This, in turn may cause the company to rethink both it’sstructure and orientation and take on a more marketing-led outlook andput more focus on advertising.  This reconfirms the basis of theproposition offered in chapter one  

that there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks

and will be explored in more depth in chapter three by the undertaking of primary and secondary research.


Chapter two looked at the literature used to inform the author upon thesubjects of strategy, operations and marketing in order to address theresearch aims

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
and it reconfirmed the authors belief in the proposition stated in chapter one      

that there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks.

The author will progress the belief in the proposition, by undertakingprimary and secondary research which is discussed further in chapterthree.

3.1     Approach to research

Chapter three shows the approach taken to marketing research in orderto investigate the above aims.  Marketing research is described as:-“the systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data andfindings relevant to a specific marketing situation facing thecompany.” (Kotler, 1997)

It is emphasised here that the research was based on one company only,and therefore any results obtained will be limited to that organisationand not the industry as a whole

This chapter also discusses the research methods considered and thosechosen, together with an overview of the approach.  Choosing thepertinent methods for research is critical for validating findings andmethods employed will also be dependant upon the outcomes required.

3.2     Research methods

Research methods may be collected generally, in two categories, primaryresearch (self-initiated and gathered) and secondary research(information that has already been accessed).  Both methods may be usedto facilitate research objectives and can be used side by side. Methods chosen may be quantitative, qualitative or a mixture of both. Quantitative data is scientific in nature and means and averagescalculated to prove or disprove a theory.  Usually using a selfadministered, or researcher administered questionnaire, the findingsshould be easy to replicate.  Qualitative data tries to look for thereason why things are done and is very subjective, usually undertakenin a setting conducive to research to try to work out why things happenas they do.

3.2.1     Secondary data

Aaker and Day (1990) state that the availability of secondary data isoften sufficient to answer the research question, and Webb (1995)suggests this data should be consulted before commencing primaryresearch. 

As Clarks is a privately owned organisation useful sources ofinformation, such as the corporate annual report and accounts, are notin the public domain, nor is any marketing literature, internal orexternal surveys available publicly. 
This type of research is useful as it can be used to redefine/reconfirm primary research findings, give an opinion from a widersample and provide key information which could not be elicited from theauthor’s primary research.

Books, journals, articles and the world wide web also contributed tothe research subjects, subjects included corporate strategy andMarketing.

3.2.2     Primary research

Primary research is generally either deductive, quantitative in nature,relying on analysis of literature or inductive, more qualitative innature, letting the data speak for itself, with research undertaken ineveryday settings and the analysis being more subjective.  The authorwished to use a mix of both qualitative and quantitative data.

Questions asked during the primary research stage cantered around theresearch aims, and were mainly addressed by way of a semi-structuredinterview with the Manager of Clarks (26 July 2004) and a furthersemi-structured interview with 20 adults known to the author in thelocal area.

3.3.1     Telephone survey

This method is often used in the business to consumer market as an 80%response rate is not uncommon (Rust et al 1996).   The author dismissedthis approach as it is less personal than a one to one approach and itis hard to build up a relationship with the interviewee, this wasrequired to break down barriers and elicit off the cuff remarks.

3.3.2     Observation

Observations may be tangible or intangible.  Intangible data relates tothe behavioural aspects of studies such as the work style of people,attitudes to customers and so on, with the observer taking a completelyunbiased approach.  The author spent just under an hour in a Clarksstore, discretely observing customers perusing and purchasingfootwear.   Tangible observations may be gathered by observation, suchas posters on walls, adverts in magazines, television commercials andso forth, this method was also employed.

However, observation only offers the easily distinguishable featuresfrom the external point of view – what the company wants you to see. Gummesson (1991) likens the company to an iceberg, showing only 10 -15%of it’s mass above water.

3.5.3     Questionnaires

Questionnaires tend to be used when a large sample of the population isrequired and a qualitative analysis preferred.  The advantage of thismethod is that the researcher is not limited to one geographical area,whereas the disadvantages are that

•    There is no guarantee of a response
•    Response rates are often as low as 25%
•    There is no proof that the addressee actually completes the questionnaire
•    Costly to print and post
•    You cannot relate to the person completing the questionnaire
•    Time constraint

However, the author wished to use a more personal approach as attitudespertaining to buyer habits and attitudes were required.  The author,therefore, dismissed this approach in favour of a semi-structuredinterview.

3.5.4     Interviews

The interview method is effective in gauging the views of theinterviewees on a particular subject.  The interviewee must remaindetached from the subject, so as not to bias the respondent, whilst atthe same time trying to build a bond to enable them to feel at ease andfreely express themselves.

Interviews are structured or semi-structured.  Structured interviewsare formal with standard questions being asked.  Whilst administered bythe interviewer, to enable the meaning of questions to be explained ifnecessary, it does not lend itself to allow for elaboration ofinformation.  This method was discounted for this reason. Semi-structured interviews are also researcher administered, but allowfor additional comments and views where necessary.  Esterby – Smith etal state that this “method is used primarily in situations where theaim is to understand the beliefs and values of the interviewee inrelation to a particular situation.”  The author felt that this wasparticularly appropriate for their was an underlying assumption thatthe recent heightened marketing campaign had changed peoplesperceptions with regard to the purchase of footwear. 

3.5.5     Exploratory research

A one to one meeting with the Employee Relations and Human ResourceManager was established and undertaken on 26 July 2004.  This meetingwas used to gauge an understanding of the company Clarks and it’sapproach to strategy and marketing.  The advantage of this approach wasthat the discussion held provoked spontaneity and it became apparentthat there had been strategic issues to address and that an activemarketing campaign was a tactic to help overcome such issues. 

3.5.6     Strategic analysis

The author undertook a strategic analysis, using PEST, five forces andvalue chain techniques on Clarks, taking into consideration knownfactors and assuming additional factors to try and ascertain an insightinto the competitive strategy used   The disadvantages of this approachare that the author does not work for the company and did not haveaccess to more than one senior member of staff in order to ask thepertinent questions.  In addition, the general public can only commenton shopping habits and their ‘brand association’ so strategicquestions, obviously could not be asked.  

3.6     Structuring the survey

Following the interview with the manager at Clarks the author hadformulated sufficient insight into the company in order to undertake aFive Forces and Value Chain analysis, whilst the details are discussedin more depth in the results chapter, it is sufficient to say that theauthor had deduced that Clarks had undergone a turnaround strategy andwas starting to become more marketing-led. 

Throughout 2004 there were numerous awareness campaigns, television,magazines, posters and the author wanted to ascertain whether thisincreased coverage had changed the buyers purchasing habits with regardto shoes or their perception, if one existed, of Clarks as profits havebeen continually rising over the last few years.

3.7     Questionnaire format

The questionnaire was self constructed based upon the second aim

2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public

Having designed the questionnaire, it was then moderated by two professional associates, not employed by Clarks, to ensure

•    That questions were clearly understandable
•    That open questions were inquisitive and not intrusive
•    Monitor flow between themes.

3.6.4     Final Questionnaire

Questions were kept as simple as possible, thus ensuring that theywould be easy to understand.  It was also helped to relax theinterviewee to aid facilitation of further comments where necessary. Aaker et al state that in sequencing a questionnaire the followingguidelines are helpful

•    Initial questions posed should be non threatening, this helps theresearcher and respondent to establish a rapport and builds therespondents confidence
•    The questionnaire should flow smoothly from one topic to the next without sudden breaks
•    More specific questions should follow on from broader ones
•    Sensitive questions should be left to the end.

The questionnaire, therefore commenced by ascertaining awareness of theClarks Brand and then enquiring into their footwear buying habits , toensure that the respondent was confident talking about their purchasinghabits.  Questions relating to the aims were then asked and therespondent could answer them as closed ended, or more specifically ifthey preferred.  It was the author’s intention to let the respondentdominate and not oneself.

The questionnaire concluded with questions relating to more sensitiveissues relating to annual income, as the author suspected that theremay be a link between the interviewees’ financial situation and theamount of shoes purchased.

3.6.5     Sampling

Jankowicz (1995) defines sampling as “the deliberate choice of a numberof people…who are to provide you with data from which you will drawconclusions about some larger group.”

For the questionnaire the author was reliant upon the goodwill ofsubjects known to the author, which had been chosen as they wereperceived to represent the section of the public currently beingtargeted by the Clarks campaign (Lynn Benfold), aged between 18 and 35.

3.7     Administering the research

 The research was undertaken on the following days

26 July 2004            One to one interview at Clarks Head Office
July 2004 – March 2005     Tangible observations, TV, advertisements
March 2005            Strategic analysis
19 March 2005        Tangible observations in Clarks shop
19 – 22 March 2005         Semi-structured interviews (20)     
A broad range of techniques was used as the author wished to ascertainthe competitive strategy of Clarks and test it’s effectiveness, throughcustomer research.

3. 7.1     Assumptions of the research

Many assumptions were made during the competitive analysis of Clarks,based on the authors perceptions from information found in the publicdomain and elicited via the company.  These will be discussed duringthe section “Findings.”  With regard to the semi-structured interviewit was presumed that the customers surveyed had all heard of Clarks andseen at least one of their advertising campaigns, either printed or ontelevision.

3.8     Critique of approach

On reflection, with regard to determining aim one 

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 

whilst the approach taken was the most suitable for the subject, theinformation used for the  PEST, Five Forces and Value Chain models andideal in ascertaining competitive advantage, the author felt that therewas a considerable gap in first hand knowledge of the operations of thecompany and many assumptions were made.  It was the author’s intentionto analyse and comment on the competitive strategy, and apparentsuccess of the ‘turnaround’ of the company Clarks.  In that regard itwould have been more successful, if the author had been able to haveone to one interviews with key managers or directors covering at leastthe strategy, marketing and operations functions.  

On the other hand, with regard to determining aim two

2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public

the tangible observations and semi-structured interviews weresuccessful.  There was a good assortment of tangible observations andthe semi-structured interviews saw a lot of positive comments madeabout Clarks, discussed further in findings.

An established and traditional family firm, there was a genuineinterest in the subject at the commencement of the interviews.  Aheightened marketing awareness programme throughout 2004 aided thetangible observation approach and the interviewees’ replies.

3.9     Summary of Methodology

The author would like to point out that the research undertaken waspurely exploratory based upon a single company and not a sector,therefore the issues are only explored within Clarks in the UK andcannot be assumed to reflect the case in other similar organisations.

Research is backward looking, whilst strategy is looking forward to thefuture.  Whilst it is assumed that Clarks started out as a productionoriented company and are moving towards being a customer orientedcompany that is more marketing –led, is only an opinion at this pointin time and to comment further on the competitive approach will requirefurther research, undertaken with key director buy-in..

3.10     Summary of chapter three.

This chapter has discussed the methods considered for the primary andsecondary research and those undertaken to best address the aims of thedissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
A critique of the approach was offered. 

Chapter four will look at the results and discuss the findings for eachof the approaches undertaken within the primary and secondary researchmethods undertaken.

4.0     Approach to research

Chapter three discussed the methods considered for the primary andsecondary research and those undertaken to best address the aims of thedissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
Chapter four will now look at the results and discuss the findings foreach of the approaches undertaken within the primary and secondaryresearch methods undertaken.  Both research methods were undertaken togive as much scope as possible.

Primary research took the following approach

•    One to one interview with Clark’s manager 26 July 2004
•    Tangible observations  19 March  2005
•    Semi – structured survey 19 March – 22 March 2005
•    Intangible observations  2004/2005

Secondary research took the following approach

•    A review of 10 years annual reports (Appendix I)
•    An internet search
•    A Five Forces and Value Chain Analysis (Porter)

4.1     Primary research

4.1.1     One to one interview with Clark’s manager 26 July 2004

The researcher does not have this, but the customer has them in his possession, feel it pertinent to give an overview

4.1.2    Tangible observations 19 March 2005

The author spent up to one hour in the local Clarks store, using themystery shopper technique of anonymous assessment.  The author wasposing as a potential purchaser of a pair of modern business shoes, butwas really interested to note the perceived demographics of the otherpurchasers in the store and their purchasing habits.  Working on thepremise that the target audience of the recent advertising campaignswas the professional 18 -35 buying shoes for themselves, the authorwished to observe whether these were indeed the shoppers of today.

During the period of the hour, the majority of the visitors to the shopwere young families, buying shoes for their children and over 50’s.  Tosum, those who had traditionally bought their shoes from Clarks.  Infact during the hour, only two women, in their early twenties enteredthe shop to peruse shoes and only one of them bought a pair of shoes(modern style boots), whilst nearly all of the families (in excess of adozen) bought at least one pair of children’s shoes.  No single men,between 18 to 35 entered the Clarks shop during this period.

4.1.3    Semi – structured survey 19 March – 22 March 2005

The semi-structured survey was undertaken to ascertain the public’sawareness and perception of Clarks as a brand.  The survey wasrestricted to adults between the ages of 18 and 35 as these had beenthe focus of Clarks recent advertising campaigns.  The survey tookplace over four days and each one was fairly informal as the author wasknown to each of the participants.  It is worth noting here, thatwhilst the author was familiar to the interviewees, in no way werethese candidates shopping habits known to the interviewer.  Theinterview questionnaire and results can be observed in Appendix II.

The initial question saw 100% of the interviewees acknowledging thatthey had heard of the brand, which was the expected result, given it’sprominence on most high streets.  However, the author included thisquestion to enable the candidates to relax.  Questions 2 to 9 weretrying to ascertain buyer behaviour. Of the twenty questioned, sevenwere men and thirteen women and all bought at least three pairs offootwear per year, but only six of the interviewees shopped at orbought the Clarks brand shoes.  Many had purchased using the internet,but no one had viewed the Clarks website.  Those that made regularpurchases at Clarks tended to buy casual or work wear shoes but no onewould consider buying special occasion shoes from Clarks, and yet 50%were prepared to pay up to £100 for special occasion wear and 25%didn’t even think about the cost. 

Questions 10 to 11 progressed to gauge awareness of the recentadvertising campaigns.  In all accounts, the scores were really low. The “my shoes” campaign saw only two interviewees vaguely recallingadverts in the Sunday papers and no one appeared to be bothered aboutlooking at poster campaigns on the shop walls.  One interviewee saidthat they “go to shop for shoes, not look at posters!”  With respect tothe very latest campaign, two of the men recalled the lady putting onstockings in the Preston is my Paris campaign, and the others onlyrecalled the adverts after a prompt from the author.

With respect to the perception of Clarks competitive advantage, “goodquality shoes”, “friendly staff” and “great shoes for kid” were themain responses given.

Finally, fourteen out of twenty interviewed spent in excess of £200 onfootwear each year and over twelve of those surveyed earned more than£25,000 per year.    

Whilst this was just a small sample of the population, all questionedwere within Clarks target age range.  Those who bought footwear fromClarks tended to buy the traditional casual shoe or work wear.  Non ofthe interviewees would consider Clarks shoes for special occasions,although 75% were prepared to spend over £50 and 66% spent over £200per year on shoes.  The recent advertisements had either not been seenby most, or at the very least remembered and perception of Clarks wasstill oriented towards good quality and children’s shoes.       

4.1.4    Intangible observations  2004/2005

There are four main types of observation of note, during the period2004 to 2005.  Firstly, there is the style and layout of the Clarksstores in the UK and the posters on the wall advertising the shoes. Secondly there is the ‘my shoes’ television and magazine campaign of2004 and thirdly the more recent television advertisements ‘Nottinghamis my New York’ and ‘Preston is my Paris’ campaigns and the

During the earlier period of 2004, the layout and advertising withinstores was very traditional Clarks.  The message that one might haveperceived from the posters was that Clarks is about shoes for thefamily and this was backed up by the presentation of the footwearwithin the stores.  Today, however, there is a much more modern styleto the interior.  Poster campaigns emphasis the person wearing theshoe, middle income/ professional, rather than the more family orientedapproach.  In fact, much emphasis is given to the classy backgroundbehind the models with less emphasis on the foot.  Footwear chosen forthese posters are more modern, such as the casual style for the man atthe marina, whilst a high class sandal for the lady by the classicalpillars and expensive shoes for the wedding poster.  This is backed upby a more modern accessorised look within the store, with shoes andmatching bags taking equal place, akin to the more ‘upmarket’ Russelland Bromley.

The ‘my shoes’ campaign throughout the early part of 2004 and into thesummer, was probably the first move towards an understanding of theperson wearing the shoes rather than the shoes themselves.  Thecampaign, on both national television and in the weekend and glossymagazines, showed how twenty and thirty year old men and women, mostlyparents, were proud of their new shoes.  It is interesting to note thatwhen these men and women were children the advertising would have shownhow the children were proud of their new shoes.  The ‘my shoes’campaign, therefore, tried to turn this perception on it’s head.     

However, it is the most recent television advertising campaign thattries to get away from the traditional family appeal of Clarks bytargeting young professional women.  The ‘Nottingham is my New York’campaign features the song ‘New York City Girl’ and the viewer isalmost led to believe that the girl is in New York, until the punchline ‘Nottingham is my New York’ is heard.  Similarly, the ‘Preston ismy Paris’ campaign has a similar slant, with the song ‘Mimi’ in thebackground the viewer is lulled into feeling that the girl is bothFrench and in Paris, until her northern accent gives the game away atthe end (similar imagery/ style to the Boddingtons’s beeradvertisement).    

The website is another tangible observation, which theauthor and others can view.  Taking the style of a catalogue the shoesare the most important feature, however the younger 18 to 35 year oldmale and female are present on the site, though not the youngprofessional of the most recent adverts.  The website takes pride inthe history and development of Clarks and it’s traditional approach toinnovation and quality.  So whilst the viewer can observe the mostrecent television commercials on the site, much emphasis is given tothe past, so it does give a mixed view of the company.  

The tangible observations are important, because they help the observerto form an impression of the company and it’s products, they alsoformed the basis of a number of questions on the semi-structuredsurvey. 

4.1.5    Limitations

The limitations of the approaches and methods used for the primaryresearch are that it is based on the perceptions and feelings of theauthor.  The author may not be typical in interpretation ofobservations and others may perceive actions, advertisements and so onin a different light.  The author has tried to address this by askingrelated questions in the semi-structured survey.  In particular, theobservation in the store took place on one day and within one hour andit is quite possible that the sample of shoppers through the doorduring that time may not have been the typical profile of Clarks shoepurchasers.  

4.2     Secondary research

4.2.1    A review of 10 years annual reports
The researcher does not have this ( the customer has them in hispossession) feels  it pertinent to give an overview i.e ratio analysis,liquidity ratios, profitability ratios, investment ratios andefficiency ratios, costs/income pertinent to adult shoes. 

4.2.2    Analysing the environment

Clarks has been operating for over 150 years and there has been aconsiderable change during that time.  Whilst this dissertation islooking at the UK, the customer has changed considerably over thedecades.  In some respects the environment is relatively stable, inthat there will always be a need for footwear, whilst on the otherhand, there are more retail outlets supplying a wider range of footwearthan ever before.  Throughout it’s history Clarks has been determinedto be at the forefront of technology by developing materials for soleshowever, manufacturing processes have become more complex and theavailability of the work force no longer limited to the UK.
Politically, Clarks are relatively lucky, compared to foreigncompetitors, that the UK has a relatively stable government system andregulated trade environment in which to operate.

Economically, the ever increasing interest rates for business,inflation and a UK public with more disposable income has had an impacton profits.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain amanufacturing base in the UK, whilst competitors are taking advantageof cheap labour in foreign companies.  Clarks have been reviewing themanufacturing side of the operations for some time and on 11 January2005 announced that it was reluctantly moving it’s manufacturing baseto the Far East in the summer of 2005, with a potential 90 people beingmade redundant. (   Clarks feel that by taking thisaction, it can manufacture more cost effectively, whilst notcompromising quality.  In addition, much of the population has a higherdisposable income than in the past and Clarks want to attract cash richbuyers to buy more of their shoes.

Social factors within the UK have contributed to this, with theincrease in students taking further and higher education; there are adiminishing number of people willing and available to take on factorywork.  This in turn drives up the price needed to remunerate the stafffor their loyalty.  By switching production to the Far East, whereexpectations and levels of education are lower and birth rates higher,Clarks hope to maintain a profitable situation.  With consumerism onthe increase and sales of shoes continually rising (customers research)there is a high demand for quality fashion shoes.

Technology and Innovation has always been key to the past success ofClarks.  Clarks have recognised that this is their core competence andintend to retain this function within the UK, to maintain control.    

The threat of entrants to the shoe market is high.  Not only are theremore UK shoe companies within the UK and the foreign imports to contendwith, but the fashion and sports wear sectors also offer footwear.  Thetraditional shoe shop is, therefore, not necessarily the obvious placeto visit when deciding to make footwear purchases.  The cost of entryis relatively low if production can be secured in a lower cost countryand there are more distribution channels than ever.  It is not just alocal economy, but a global one, not just shoe shops but fashion andsportswear chains and the internet and so forth.

The power of buyers and suppliers is high as there are more buyers thanbefore, with the global economy opening up and many more outlets forfootwear than ever before.  Purchasers can buy footwear from a range ofsuppliers and the cost of changing brand is nothing to the customer, infact they are more likely to shop around for the best prices.  Toconclude, it is a buyers market and the supplier needs to do it’s bestto entice the buyer to it’s product.

The threat of substitute is probably medium.  When the customer needsfootwear, s/he will purchase footwear.  However the threat of genericsubstitution could be high where the footwear is being purchased as afashion accessory rather than a need.

Competitive rivalry may be perceived as high as the market growth ratefor shoes is increasing (customers notes).  This has forced Clarks toreview it’s own growth in the market place and pertinent decisionsmade, to re-locate the production to lower costs and the creation of anew advertising campaign to target the 18 – 35 customer, which itbelieves has more disposable income.

There is no evidence in the public domain for collaboration.

4.2.3    Resources, competencies and strategic capability.     

The author was not able to undertake a full resource audit, as therewas very limited access to Clarks staff and determining competencieswas deduced from information in the public domain, website, andfollowing information from the BBC report.  The fact that Clarks haschosen to retain the research and development function within it’s UKhead office suggests that this is the core competence.  Still today afamily run firm, the management is also to remain in the UK.  Adiscreet phone call to the company (21/03/2005) determined that the UKalso retains a marketing function, which has been enhanced to overseethe heightened advertising activities.    The author believes that thedistribution function remains at the UK site (distribution referencedon BBC report), but of course, the inbound-logistics side is presumablyoutsourced alongside the manufacturing.

With reference to the value chain, all elements of the supportactivities remain, whilst the production and inbound logistics areoutsourced.

The Clarks family obviously believe that they are still the best peopleplaced to manage what is now a global company, and marketing thatcompany to a new UK target audience.  Product innovation has alwaysbeen a key driver, and of course that stays too.

The changes are still in the process of being undertaken, it is notpossible to say whether it will be a success.  The author predicts thatsuccess will probably be determined by the interdependencies if thelinkages of the new chain – with the Far East.

4.2.4    Stakeholder expectations and organisational purpose

The literature review suggested that there were two questions to beaddressed with regard to organisational purpose, who should theorganisation, serve and how? Traditionally the Clarks’ family have beenthe owner managers of the company, which is still the case today. Perhaps, the issue surrounding who the company serves is in fact them? It is quite possible for an innovative and design oriented company tospend more time on developing product quality than looking at customerneeds and communicating product choices to them.  Recent research (fromcustomers notes) shows that there is more spending on shoes than in thepast.  In fact, spending is increasing more on the higher priced andfashion shoes than ever before, but probably not on the Clarks brand.

Recent advertising campaigns are trying to show the customer that theyhave appropriate shoes for all occasions and that they especially likethe cash rich customer.  This would suggest that Clarks have, in fact,undertaken an analysis of the shoe buying public, or that they havepurchased some research.  It is too soon to say whether this has had animpact, but the author will try and determine to an extent through thesemi-structured survey and observations taken.

4.2.5 Competitive strategy     

It is well documented that Clarks were one of the fore fathers of shoedesign and that they have been supplying the footwear market for over150 years.  Historically, there have not been many competitors in theUK market.  Over the last few years, the market within the UK hasexpanded and global imports are now available to purchasers.  Perhapsthe organisational culture is such that it has taken for grantedassumptions about the customer and appear to have been unaware that thecustomer has more choice now, so is not restricted to Clarks shops andit’s ranges.  Until recently, Clarks have not tried to address this.

It is the author’s opinion, from the analysis preceding , that Clarkshas determined upon a defender strategy, to defend it’s place at thetop end of the UK shoe market and will go on to maintain it’s place.


4.3    Limitations to the secondary approach

Limitations to this approach are that it is based on the interpretationof figures and events as understood by the author, albeit usingcredible publications as the source.  Semi-structured or formalinterviews with a broader section of Clarks management may have given amore detailed insight into the organisation, thereby lessening thenumber of presumptions made. 

4.4     Summary of chapter four

Chapter four reviewed the results from the methodologies used andreviewed the findings for each of the approaches undertaken, namelyprimary and secondary research.  Both research methods were undertakento give as much scope as possible.  The author believes that Clarkswere using a defender strategy.

The findings will now be reviewed, in chapter five, against the aims of the dissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
And the author will attempt to ascertain whether or not the proposition

That there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks.

holds true for the case study, Clarks.

Chapter four reviewed the results from the methodologies used andreviewed the findings for each of the approaches undertaken, namelyprimary and secondary research.  Both research methods were undertakento give as much scope as possible and limitations to each method usedwere offered.

The findings will now be further reviewed against the aims of the dissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
And the author will attempt to ascertain whether or not the proposition

That there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks.

Holds true for the case study, Clarks.

5.1    AIM 1.  To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy.

It would appear from the research undertaken; using PEST, five forcesand value chain analysis that Clarks has undertaken a full strategicreview and that has resulted in a change of tactics.  Falling profitshad meant that Clarks had to adapt to it’s business environment andbecome more customer focused.  It had attempted to save costs byoutsourcing production and (customers notes …had employed new designersand undertaken an advertising campaign to  target 18 – 35 year olds). 

Historically Clarks has operated in a narrow market with the topmanagement experts in their fields of innovation and shoe design andhas not had to be aware of competitors or changing shopping habits. They have already realised that this complacency cannot last, and sothe author believes that Clarks have undertaken a Defensive strategy. This would ensure that they lose no more market share.  In typicaldefensive style (Miles and Snow) external competition has forced themto become customer rather than product oriented.  The question of howto produce and distribute goods efficiently has arisen and a decisionhas been taken to outsource to the Far East.  Internally, it wouldappear that the marketing function has been given more prominence andauthority to undertake radical new advertising campaigns, featuring theperson who wears the shoes, rather than the shoes themselves.

The author believes that the fist aim, to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy used, has been successful.

5.2    AIM 2.  To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public

The author believes that success cannot be determined at this point intime.  Whilst the approach to strategy can be determined, the tacticsused are not all in place.  The production department has not yetmoved, although it is imminent and there appears to be a current lullin the television and magazine advertising campaign.  The samplesurveyed, representing Clarks target audience, whilst small in number,was not very aware of the advertising campaigns over the last year. This could suggest that further activity may be needed in this regardthroughout the regions.


5.3    Does the proposition hold true?

that there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks

The author believes that the proposition holds true for the case study Clarks.

5.4    Summary of chapter five

Chapter five reviewed the findings from chapter four against the aims of the dissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 
2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
It was found that whilst the first aim was successfully achieved, theauthor felt that it was too early to comment on the second aim.  It wasthen attempted to ascertain whether or not the proposition

that there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks.

Holds true for the case study, Clarks, and found that this was, in fact the case..


Chapter five found that aim one of the dissertation

1. To conduct an analysis of Clarks to determine the approach taken to competitive strategy 

was successfully achieved, whilst felt that it was too early to comment on whether or not aim two

2. To determine whether the strategy determined has been a success in the eyes of the public 
was successful, although indications were that it would become so.  Theauthor also concluded that, in respect of the case study Clarks, theproposition

that there is a link between the undertaking of a competitive analysis and the change in the operating profits of Clarks

Did hold true.

The author would like to re-address the limitations, namely

•    that the research was undertaken with very little first hand information and presumptions were made
•    that the analyses undertaken were in respect of one company,Clarks, and cannot be used as a benchmark against other companies inthe footwear or fashion industries.


Appendix 1

Year    Profit £m
 (before tax)    Operating Profit £m    Turnover £m
1990    35.0    0    600.0
1991    17.8    0    606.0
1992    19.5    0.    594.0
1993    0.1    18.2    625.0
1994    20.8    27.6    655.0
1995    19.6    19.0    684.0
1996    24.8    24.5    722.0
1997    (0.4) high exception costs    33.6    727.3
1998    35.0    39.4    743.1
1999    6.3    42.5    792.2
2000    39.2    50.4    831.6
2001    36.8    52.5    875.9
2002    46.8    60.2    937.0
2003    48.4    68.3    932.7
2004    62.7    77.4    943.1


Appendix II

Semi – structured survey

Question 1. Have you heard of the Clarks brand of shoe?  Yes/ No  
20/20 Yes
Question 2. Are you 18 – 25 or 26 – 35?
18- 25 = 10  (4 men, 6 women)     26 -35 = 10 (3 men, 7 women)
Question 3. How often do you buy shoes/ footwear per year for yourself? 1, 2, 3, 4 or more?
12 said 3
2 said 4
6 said more than 4
Question 4. Do you buy your footwear from Clarks?  Yes/ No
6 said yes
14 said no.
Question 5 (if yes to 4) Do you buy all your shoes from Clarks, or specific types?
None of 6 bought all their shoes from Clarks
4 said various types’ e.g. casual, work wear
Question 6 (if no to 4) Is there any reason why you don’t buy from Clarks?
“Reminds me of school days” “not trendy”” “Like designer labels” “hardto find shoes to match women’s suits” “buy from the Next catalogue whenordering my clothes” 
 “Like Mr Shuh” “shop full of kids and pensioners” “I find it hard toget good fitting shoes, wide feet so go to a specialist shop in London”“old fashioned”
Question 7.  How much would you spend on a pair of work shoes? <£30 or >£30
16/20 said more than £30
Question 8.  If you were buying a pair of shoes for a special occasion, where would you go?
“Russell and Bromley” “internet for designer brands like Jimmy Choo,Manolo Blahnik” (7 said answers like this) “I’d shop around town to seewhat I found” “Harrods” “Probably where I bought my outfit”  “internet“ catalogues”
Question 9.  How much would you spend on a special occasion pair of shoes?
5 under £50
10 between £50 - £100
5 don’t worry about the cost
Question 10.  Have you ever looked at the Clarks web site? Yes/ No 
All 20 said no
Question 11.  Are you aware of the recent advertising campaigns?
i) “My shoes – i.e where the adult is proud of his/her new shoes?” Yes/ No
2 said they thought they recalled something in the Sunday magazines.
18 said no.
ii) Poster Campaign in store?   Yes/ No
Of those who shopped at Clarks, non had particularly noticed the posters
iii) Nottingham is my New York and Preston is my Paris?
These adverts had not been on the television for a while, so awarenesswas low, but after prompting many did remember.  Interestingly, 2 ofthe men recalled the Preston is my Paris advert instantly recalling thestockings!
Question 12.  What do you believe to be the competitive advantage for Clarks?
6 Don’t know/ not sure they have an advantage
3Good quality shoes
8Great shoes for kids
3 Staff are friendly
Question 13.  How much do you reckon you spend on footwear each year?
Up to £50,  £50 - £100, £100 -  £200, more than £200 
0                       2                   4              14
Question 14.  Do you earn more or less than £25k?
8 said more
12 less


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