Business-level competitive strategy in the United States hardwood lumber industry
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Three related aspects of competition in the U.S. hardwood lumber industry were investigated. First, product and supplier attributes that are determinant in hardwood lumber purchase decisions were investigated within four segments of the market for hardwood lumber: Millwork producers, hardwood dimension and flooring producers, wood household furniture producers, and wood kitchen cabinet producers. Attributes with the highest determinant scores were: grading accuracy, supplier’s reputation, freedom from surface checks, competitive pricing, and within-load thickness consistency. The least determinant attribute was the presence of the suppliers logo or trademark. The importance of various attributes was generally consistent across the market segments and producers were relatively well attuned to the needs of lumber users. Lumber users were least satisfied with lumber quality. Lumber producers perceived users to be least satisfied with the availability of certain species. Business-level intended competitive strategy in the industry was investigated through quantitative identification of strategic groups in a sample consisting of the 100 largest U.S. hardwood lumber producers. Factor and cluster analyses were used to define strategic groups along the dimensions of cost leadership, focus, and differentiation. Five strategic groups were identified and examined as to strategic orientation and intra-group homogeneity. The differentiation dimension accounted for the greatest portion of strategic variation. Empirical evidence of the use of hybrid Overall Cost Leadership/Differentiation strategies was found—suggesting that strategic typologies that do not account for this strategy may not be applicable to a mature industry. Predicted strategic change in the industry concentrated on increasing differentiation orientation. Qualitative data concerning competition in the industry was obtained via in-person interviews with executives at twenty of the largest companies in the sample. ln general, the largest and smallest companies in the industry were found to be the most production oriented. Companies self-typed their competitive strategies using Porter‘s (1980) strategic typology. Overall Cost Leadership strategies were the most common followed by Differentiation and Focus strategies. The majority of companies interviewed competed for customers based on quality, customer service, and price—in that order of importance. Proprietary grading was an important competitive tool for larger companies.
- Doctoral Dissertations