Competitive strategy and structure in the United States wood household furniture industry

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Virginia Tech

A multivariate measure of Porter's (1980) dimensions of competitive strategy was used to determine the competitive structure of the U.S. wood household furniture industry. Firms were categorized into strategic groups using hierarchical agglomerate cluster analysis based on factor scores. Cluster analysis resulted in a differentiation, an overall low cost, and a focus group (which appeared as a sub-group of the differentiation group). No differences (based on MANDOVA) were found between strategic groups based on performance (ROA or growth), or between firms with a distinct strategic orientation and those that appeared to be "stuck in the middle" (Porter 1980, p.41).

Firms were asked to predict changes in their strategies over the following five years (1993 to 1998). The overall low cost group predicted increased emphasis primarily on the differentiation dimension, the differentiation group predicted increased emphasis on the focus dimension and the focus group predicted greater emphasis would be placed on the overall low cost and differentiation dimensions.

Three firms chosen based on their close proximity to strategic group centroids were studied through case analyses to detennine how these firms operationalize their intended strategy. The firm classified as a differentiation strategist: emphasized product style and company image, and was very customer-oriented. The overall low cost firm's strategy involved manufacturing generic products exhibiting mass appeal and offering these products at the lowest cost. The focus firm aggressively targeted a particular market segment to achieve competitive advantage.

The structure of the industry was investigated based of value of shipments during 1993. Over 60% of reported shipments were targeted toward a medium price point. Nearly 85% of shipments were from the largest 25% of responding firms. The majority of furniture shipped by respondents was bedroom furniture, followed by dining room furniture (19%) and occasional tables (11 %). Over one third of reported shipments were through local and regional full line furniture stores. Other important channels of distribution were national furniture chains (20% of total shipments) and discount chains, department stores and mass merchants (14%). Of the total reported value, 6.0% were exported, 15.6% were consumer ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture and 16.9% were new products.

wood products