Is bigger better?

If you ask this about blogging, the answer is obviously no.

You want an example? I have several files, articles and so on about Teavana IPO, finances and such (this is the nice part when a company goes public) but I have tried to analyse all of it in depth and I have been stuck in nowhere, unable to go anywhere but unwilling to let it go.

How does this connect to tea?

When I asked myself what I should do and found the question I asked myself at the beginning, the answer came to me: What is the growth strategy of Teavana? Where do they do make their money? Where do they make their profits?

I don’t know if I will be answer to answer all these questions but I will focus on them (this means I won’t cover everything but perhaps I might come back to it later).

Teavana is a rapidly growing specialty retailer of premium loose-leaf teas, authentic artisanal teawares and other tea-related merchandise.”

I will come back to the growing part later on, so let’s focus on the sales mix.

Here is Teavana’s sales mix over the last years.


2008 2009 2010
Tea 51,00% 54,00% 56,00%
Merchandise 44,00% 42,00% 40,00%
Beverage 5,00% 4,00% 4,00%

Tea is the biggest part of it but not by much (only between 1 and 6% more than the two other categories put together) but its importance is growing while Teavana is experimenting a rise in their sales (from 63, 86 millions $ in 2008 to 124,70 in 2010), so when you mix the two of them, you see that tea is really important for Teavana.


2008 2009 2010
Tea 32,57 48,74 69,83
Merchandise 28,10 37,91 49,88
Beverage 3,19 3,61 4,99

So important, that their tea sales were in 2 years multiplied by more than 2.

This is coherent with Teavana’s strategy as “A primary driver of our expected margin expansion will come from the continuation of our sales mix shift away from tea-related merchandise towards higher margin loose-leaf teas that our stores generally experience as they mature. In general, this trend is consistent with the evolution in our customers’ buying patterns as they graduate from purchases with a greater focus on merchandise with which to prepare and enjoy tea towards transactions centered more on replenishing their favorite teas and experimenting with new blends.”

To sum it up, they aim at opening more and more new stores but they also aim at bringing the consumers to the world of loose-leaf teas where their margins are higher.

Does it work or is their future growth the result of a growing number of stores?

Here is a first hint to see if it works.

The graphics provides us with a first analysis: the growth in the number of stores is obviously linked to the growth in revenues and also to the growth in profits (even if it takes time to get a return on investment, even if Teavana claims to do it rather quickly with a payback period of 1.5 year) but it is only one of their main components (I checked also using statistical formulas but I don’t want to bother you here with them).

So it seems that Teavana figures are in line with their strategy :

expand the number of stores,

  • increase the same-store sales,

  • expand the online presence.

 

Will this strategy work? Perhaps and since I don’t read the future in tea leaves, I won’t answer that question. However, what I know for sure is that perpetual growth is an unknown phenomena.

If we get back to Teavana, from all the weaknesses they have identified in their strategy, I think the most important one is the potential problems with the new stores (suitable locations, lease terms, cash to invest) and the personal (train and retain it).

Why?

Simply because quality is not enough, you need to have the right people able to create a specific relationship with the buyers, allowing them to come back and to “upgrade” their experience.

You also need to be visible, meaning being in the right place, which comes at a cost.

So is bigger better? Only up to a certain point.

What point? It all depends on how a company is able to evolve and make the best of its size but sometimes, it just becomes too big to fail, which usually leads to a failure.

But one thing I know is that for now, Teavana is not going the Starbucks way and comparing the two is like comparing broccolis and carrots, they are both vegetables but that’s all. Teavana and Starbucks are both beverage companies but that’s all.

 

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