April brings sunshine, warmer temperatures and freak snow showers.
For many of our suppliers, customers and competitors, April also brings a wave of annual reports being issued on almost a daily basis.
This should be a time when you are gathering the annual reports for your customers (as a supplier) and competitors (as a either a supplier or a retailer) and taking the time to read them thoroughly.
Now, I don’t mean pouring over the dozens of pages of financial ratios in the back of the reports (per se). You should really focus your energy in the front 20-25 pages which include the key achievements from the past year, strategic insights from management and information on where the company is focusing in the year ahead.
It is surprising just how much information is shared in annual reports which you can put to work in your role if you spend the time and ask the right questions:
- How did this customer or competitor perform in comparison to my company’s results?
- What were the key drivers of the results for last year.
- What are the major initiatives where they will focus their energies in the upcoming year?
- What does this mean for my business?
You should also be looking at the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports which are usually published close to the same time as the annual report. CSR is the number two issue on the minds of CPG / Retail executives according to the Consumer Good Forum “Top of Mind” survey. Both Loblaw and Sobeys are leading the pack in Canada in making this sort of information transparent through dedicated reports vs. including it as a footnote inside the annual report.
Finally, I encourage you to read your own organization’s Annual and CSR reports and ask yourself how your company’s strategy might be affected over the next year from what you have read.
As some of you may know, we publish the SINS Canadian Retailer Year In Review which is a summary of the annual reports for all the major retailers operating in Canada who are public companies. Our next edition of this resource will be available shortly with updates on over a dozen retailers from Loblaw to Rona to Indigo.
In this industry, knowledge is power and understanding your competitive environment is critical. Can you afford not to take the time to review this valuable information?