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Simmons Farm and Seed Company: Competitive Strategy Analysis

Mr. Carter is the manager of Simmons Farm and Seed Company, a wholesaler of fertilizer, seed, and other farm supplies. The company has been successful in recent years primarily because of great customer service, flexible credit terms, customized orders (quantities, seed mix, etc), and on-time delivery. Global Agricultural Products, Inc., Simmons' parent corporation, has informed Mr. Carter that his budgeted net income for the coming year will be $120,000. The budget was based on data from the prior year and Mr. Carter's belief that there would be no significant changes in revenues and expenses for the coming period.

After the determination of the budget, Carter received notice from Simmons' principal shipping agent that it was about to increase its rates by 10%. This carrier handles 90% of Simmons' total shipping volume. Paying the increased rate will result in failure to meet the budgeted income level. Mr. Carter is understandably reluctant to allow that to happen. He is considering two alternatives. First, it is possible to use another carrier whose rates are 5% less than the old carrier's original rate. The old carrier, however, is a subsidiary of a major customer; shifting to a new carrier will almost certainly result in loss of that customer and sales amounting to $70,000.

Assume that prior to the recent rate increase, the shipping costs of the principal carrier and the other carriers were the same, and that costs of the other carriers are not expected to change.

As a second alternative, Simmons can purchase its own trucks thereby reducing its shipping costs to 85% of the original rate. The new trucks would have an expected life of 10 years, no salvage value and would be depreciated on a straight line basis. Related fixed costs excluding depreciation would be $2,000. Assume that if Simmons purchases the trucks, Simmons will replace the principal shipper and the other shippers.

Following are data from the prior year:
Sales: $1,500,000
Variable costs (excluding shipping): 1,095,000
Shipping costs: 135,000
Fixed costs: 150,000

1. Describe what you think is the competitive strategy of Simmons Farm and Seed Company. What should be the strategy? How would the use of a new carrier affect the strategy?

2. Can Mr. Carter use value chain analysis to improve the profits of Simmons Farm and Seed Company? If so, explain how briefly.

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This solution looks at the concept of competitive advantage and recommends a strategy to the Simmons Farm and Seed Company to increase benefits and services of higher priced items. Case study details are provided and a problem solving strategy is explained.