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    The Business Situation

    Greetings Inc. stores, as well as the Wall Décor division, have enjoyed healthy profitability during the last two years. Although the profit margin on prints is often thin, the volume of print sales has been substantial enough to generate 15% of Greetings's store profits. In addition, the increased customer traffic resulting from the prints has generated significant additional sales of related non-print products. As a result, the company's rate of return has exceeded the industry average during this two-year period. Greetings's store managers likened the e-business leverage created by Wall Décor to a "high-octane" fuel to supercharge the stores' profitability.

    This high rate of return (ROI) was accomplished even though Wall Décor's venture into e-business proved to cost more than originally budgeted. Why was it a profitable venture even though costs exceeded estimates? Greetings stores were able to generate a considerable volume of business for Wall Décor. This helped spread the high e-business operating costs, many of which were fixed, across many unframed and framed prints. This experience taught top management that maintaining an e-business structure and making this business model successful are very expensive and require substantial sales as well as careful monitoring of costs.

    Wall Décor's success gained widespread industry recognition. The business press documented Wall Décor's approach to using information technology to increase profitability. The company's CEO, Robert Burns, has become a frequent business-luncheon speaker on the topic of how to use information technology to offer a great product mix to the customer and increase shareholder value. From the outside looking in, all appears to be going very well for Greetings stores and Wall Décor.

    However, the sun is not shining as brightly on the inside at Greetings. The mall stores that compete with Greetings have begun to offer prints at very competitive prices. Although Greetings stores enjoyed a selling price advantage for a few years, the competition eventually responded, and now the pressure on selling price is as intense as ever. The pressure on the stores is heightened by the fact that the company's recent success has led shareholders to expect the stores to generate an above-average rate of return. Mr. Burns is very concerned about how the stores and Wall Décor can continue on a path of continued growth.

    Fortunately, more than a year ago, Mr. Burns anticipated that competitors would eventually find a way to match the selling price of prints. As a consequence, he formed a committee to explore ways to employ technology to further reduce costs and to increase revenues and profitability. The committee is comprised of store managers and staff members from the information technology, marketing, finance, and accounting departments. Early in the group's discussion, the focus turned to the most expensive component of the existing business model?the large inventory of prints that Wall Décor has in its centralized warehouse. In addition, Wall Décor incurs substantial costs for shipping the prints from the centralized warehouse to customers across the country. Ordering and maintaining such a large inventory of prints consumes valuable resources.

    One of the committee members suggested that the company should pursue a model that music stores have experimented with, where CDs are burned in the store from a master copy. This saves the music store the cost of maintaining a large inventory and increases its ability to expand its music offerings. It virtually guarantees that the store can always provide the CDs requested by customers.

    Applying this idea to prints, the committee decided that each Greetings store could invest in an expensive color printer connected to its online ordering system. This printer would generate the new prints. Wall Décor would have to pay a royalty on a per print basis. However, this approach does offer certain advantages. First, it would eliminate all ordering and inventory maintenance costs related to the prints. Second, shrinkage from lost and stolen prints would be reduced. Finally, by reducing the cost of prints for Wall Décor, the cost of prints to Greetings stores would decrease, thus allowing the stores to sell prints at a lower price than competitors. The stores are very interested in this option because it enables them to maintain their current customers and to sell prints to an even wider set of customers at a potentially lower cost. A new set of customers means even greater related sales and profits.

    As the accounting/finance expert on the team, you have been asked to perform a financial analysis of this proposal. The team has collected the information presented in Illustration CA 4-1.

    Illustration CA 4-1 Information about the proposed capital investment project

    cost of equipment(zero residual value) : $ 800,000

    cost of ink and paper supplies (purchase immediately) : $ 100,000

    Annual cash flow savings for wall decor : $ 175,000

    annual additional store cash flow from increased sales : $ 100,000

    sale of ink and paper supplies at end of 5 years: $ 50,000

    expected life of equipment : 5 years

    cost of capital : 12%


    Mr. Burns has asked you to do the following as part of your analysis of the capital investment project.

    1 Calculate the net present value using the numbers provided. Assume that annual cash flows occur at the end of the year.

    2 Mr. Burns is concerned that the original estimates may be too optimistic. He has suggested that you do a sensitivity analysis assuming all costs are 10% higher than expected and that all inflows are 10% less than expected.

    3 Identify possible flaws in the numbers or assumptions used in the analysis, and identify the risk(s) associated with purchasing the equipment.

    4 In a one-page memo, provide a recommendation based on the above analysis. Include in this memo: (a) a challenge to store and Wall Décor management and (b) a suggestion on how Greetings stores could use the computer connection for related sales.

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    Solution Preview

    Dear Student,

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    Below are my answers.


    Question 1
    Note: The NPV computation is based on the information provided. However, I find it odd that there is no information on the depreciation method and income tax rate.

    Year Item Cash Flow PV Factor (12%) NPV
    0 Initial investment (800,000) 1.0000 (800,000)
    0 Cost of ink and paper supplies (100,000) 1.0000 (100,000)
    1 Annual cash flow savings 175,000 0.8929 156,250
    1 Additional store cash flows 100,000 0.8929 89,286
    2 Annual cash flow savings 175,000 0.7972 139,509
    2 Additional store cash flows 100,000 0.7972 79,719
    3 Annual cash flow savings 175,000 0.7118 124,562
    3 Additional store cash flows 100,000 0.7118 71,178
    4 Annual cash flow savings 175,000 0.6355 111,216
    4 Additional store cash flows 100,000 0.6355 63,552
    5 Annual cash flow savings 175,000 0.5674 99,300 ...

    Solution Summary

    The NPV computation is examined.