Case study on LuLu Hypermarkets: Question and answers; By Victor A. Imhangbe

LuLu Hypermarkets to open 10 stores in Malaysia
Abu Dhabi, May 19, 2014
The UAE-based Lulu Group is expected to open about 10 hypermarkets in Malaysia initially following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), a leading land development and resettlement agency.

The memorandum was signed by the director general of Felda, Y Bhg Datuk Faizoull Ahmad and Yusuffali M A, managing director, LuLu Group International. The signing was witnessed by Prime Minister of Malaysia, Y AB Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak and chairman of Felda Tan Sri Hj Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.

Under the agreement, LuLu will lease the hypermarket buildings developed and constructed by Felda on a long-term basis, a statement said.

The start-up investment for each hypermarket will be around $30 to $40 million and a total of $200 million is expected to be invested in the initial stage, it was revealed at a press conference in Abu Dhabi.

The LuLu Hypermarket will gain more than 20 per cent of the domestic market share, based on the current economic outlook and location prospect, a spokesman said.

The UAE headquartered LuLu Group is today the leader in the hypermarkets business in the GCC region with 110 stores across nine countries serving more than 600,000 shoppers a day. The group reported a sales turnover of $5.4 billion last year.

The proposed locations for the establishment of LuLu Hypermarket in Malaysia are Kota Bharu Kelantan, Bukit Katil Malacca, Ipoh Perak, Nilai Icon City Negeri Sembilan, Shah Alam Selangor. Other locations are also currently being surveyed. Felda is also interested to develop other potentially strategic areas such as the Klang Valley, Johor Bharu and Penang, the statement said.

LuLu Hypermarkets are targeting to begin operations in Malaysia by early 2016 and this will add value to the Malaysian market by introducing the unique concept of Halal Hypermarkets. LuLu Hypermarkets are also planning to introduce new halal products as well as promoting Felda SME products in Malaysia and the Middle East. This initiative is expected to create job opportunities in both countries and thus fulfilling the public demands, the statement said.

“With a population of over 29 million, Malaysia needs quality halal-only hypermarkets and we will be the first to operate 100 percent Halal hypermarkets there,” Reuters quoted Yusuffali as saying.

Extract from Trade Arabia News.


To answer the first question, I would like to make some concise reference to Lulu Hypermarket as the focus point. Lulu Hypermarket is a hypermarket chain and retail venture started by Lulu Group International in 2000. Managing director of the group that is based in Abu Dhabi is M. A. Yousuf Ali. LuLu has over 35,600 employees of various nationalities.

With that at the back of our mind, it is clear to know Lulu Hypermarket has established a niche for itself with vast experience over the years and considering the fact that  they have outlets in virtually all the middle Eastern countries like;  UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. This means their Malaysia operation strategy will not be too isolated from what is obtainable in other countries since the market is homogenous in nature and the core values and culture of the environment is the same, since Lulu Hypermarkets started operation in Islamic nation similar to Malaysia.

(A) Describe the various stages in supply chain that involves Lulu Hypermarkets.

I would like to draw the attention of Lulu Hypermarkets management to explore the business processes of retail giants such as IKEA and Walmart. Definitely important lessons can be draw   from Kellogg’s supply chain and inventory management; starting from factory to supermarket shelves.

I will recommend a hybrid of different supply chain strategies to enhance effective and efficient product delivery to meet customer satisfaction. Supply chain collaboration is a hot topic today and no wonder: companies that collaborate effectively across the supply chain have enjoyed dramatic reductions in inventories and costs, together with improvements in speed, service levels, and customer satisfaction. Collaboration between companies’ joint initiatives that go beyond their normal course of day-to-day business, with the aim of delivering significant improvement over the long term is particularly attractive for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector. With pricing under pressure from recession-scarred consumers, the temptation for retailers is to transfer the pain upstream to their suppliers by passing on price reductions and forcing them to bear an increasing share of costs. On the supply side, however, there is less and less room for manufacturers to absorb additional costs as volatile input prices put the squeeze on margins and the marketing investment required to differentiate branded products from private-label competitors continues to rise. Luis Benavides el ta (2016).

Let me take us back to Kellogg whose business model is similar to Lulu’s Hypermarkets in supply chain point of view which is getting orders from manufacturing plants to the shelves. Kellogg’s is one of the leading companies in providing food items (especially breakfast items and convenience food) to its customers located worldwide. The company was established in 1906 in USA and till now, it’s been following the philosophy of ‘improved diet and improved health’.

As the world’s leading cereal manufacturer, not only has Kellogg’s been serving its customers at a national level, it has also been able to successfully establish a worldwide network globally. Since 1938, Kellogg’s has opened manufacturing plants in United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Asia. Kellogg’s’ products are now manufactured in 19 countries and are sold in approximately 160 countries. It produces about 40 different types of cereals and snacks, such as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Special K, Fruit n’ Fibre, as well as the Nutri-Grain cereal bars.

As noted by Clara Lu; Kellogg’s supply chain strategy is divided into three sectors by the industry such as; Primary sector, Secondary sector and Tertiary sector, this supply chain strategy with due diligent will work well for Lulu Hypermarkets which are discussed below:

Primary sector: This is where the raw material is provided to the company from around the world. In case of Lulu Hypermarkets, there should be little adjustment to suit the peculiar regions of operation. As I suggested above, collaborating with manufacturing industries in various stocks is essential. Lulu’s should adopt similar supply chain method in Malaysia. The prevailing one which is contract farming has been used as a tool to incorporate farmers into the modern supermarket supply chain, mediated by Malaysia’s Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority (FAMA), as opine by Denise Chin (2015). Some Hypermarkets are embarking on backward integration to have direct control of stocks.

Secondary Sector: This is where the products are made using the raw material supplied and shipped to wholesalers or stored in warehouses. Modern manufacturing includes all intermediate processes required for the production and integration of a product’s components. Some industries, such as semiconductor and steel manufacturers use the term fabrication instead. It is a place where raw materials and further process to semi-finished or finished goods before they are distributed to warehouse. Strategic partnership can also play a major role here and other relevant logistics strategies like; JIT, vendor manage inventory or cross docking to ensure there is constant supply and avoid stock out of inventories.

Tertiary Sector: This is a service sector that companies in the secondary sectors use to optimize or benefit business processes. There are various departments and functions that synchronise, coordinate and work together throughout the supply chain system such as marketing, purchasing, quality check, sales, transportation and distribution processes. In a complex multinational Hypermarket like Lulu, operation usually involves contract logistics model, or third party logistics provider for effective and efficient service delivery. In most cases distribution centers are cited in a particular region as logistics strategy, such as Regional Distribution Centers (RDS), Hub and spoke transportation system when source of products and materials transcend international borders, outsourcing of logistics and supply chain service can also be consider, all is  to aid prompt distribution from manufacturing plants to the shelve. Logistics activities like; Kitting, labeling, marking, sorting and so on usually take place at the warehouse or the regional distribution center for operation convenience.  It is part of the business strategy of any business to consider how they would get raw material from the best available source and how that raw material would be used to manufacture a product and get the finished products on time and in full to final consumers. For the purpose of providing a satisfactory answers, I will use the below chat to illustrate stages of Lulu Hypermarket Supply chain:


The above is a simple supply chain diagram of Lulu’s Hypermarkets. Through electronic data interchange (EDI), information flow from shelve to supplier or manufacturer as the case maybe. Note that the role of transportation between every link of the chain is pivotal to the movement of goods. When the order is made between one country and another, the complexity increase and it will involve global logistics integration where incoterms are used. When the manufacturing gets an order, it will be processed and taking advantage of economic of scale by bulk buying, the goods will be transported to the regional distribution center, and thereafter to the branch warehouse before the products are displays on the shelves.

(B) What are the major sources of uncertainty (financial & non-financial) that can affect Lulu Hypermarkets supply chain?

In this 21st century the efficient and effective movement of goods has become very competitive due to reduce product life cycles, shorter leads time and increase consumers choice and taste; as a result of technological advancement. There are stringent competitions in cars manufacturing industries and smart phones in recent time. Now the competition has shifted from two competitive companies to their supply chain network. Let’s take Toyota and Honda for instance, the differences in quality and customer choice are becoming blurred to the extent, competition is no longer between the two auto makers, but between the performances of their supply chains on who gets the product to the market first, and the same applies to Apple and Samsung smart phones.

We have recognized supply and demand as usual uncertainty. For optimum performance, companies are striving to reduce the level of uncertainties along the chains in order to improve customer services. Supply chain uncertainty refers to decision making situations in the supply chain in which the decision maker does not know definitely what to decide as they are indistinct about the objectives; lacks information about (or understanding of) the supply chain or its environment; lacks information processing capacities; is unable to accurately predict the impact of possible control actions on supply chain behaviour; or, lacks effective control actions (non- controllability). Van der Vorst and et al (2002).


Fluctuations in demand and price: The major sources of uncertainty are fluctuations in demand and price. These may vary for a number of reasons; Porter’s five forces model suggests that the presence or absence of substitute goods and services, the threat of existing competitors, of new competitors and the bargaining power of customers will affect a company’s existing product. Prices may fluctuate according to supply and demand, changes in tariffs and exchange rates, and inflation.

Inaccurate forecast: According to Darren Smillie, in an IGD survey, the industry wants to find out how supply chains are adapting to deliver successful planning for their businesses. The findings showed that two-thirds of businesses (67%) think that it’s getting harder to forecast demand. Much of that comes down to a fundamental shift in shopper behaviour in recent years, partly in reaction to the economic downturn and partly due to digital technology. Shoppers are spreading their purchases across multiple formats, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, online and discounters. The problem is not lack of forecasting, but inaccurate forecasting is another major source of uncertainties that can affect Lulu Hypermarkets

Natural disasters: This is a nonfinancial uncertainty such as Tsunamis, Typhoon, earthquake etc. Supply chain risks include the chance of disruptions and delays due to natural disaster.

Political Instability: When there is political uprising and protests, various global supply chains are usually disrupted and international movement of goods is hampered. War, social disorder like terrorism activities similar to Paris and Brussels airport attacks can create automatic uncertainties and hinders cargoes flow, labor disputes and so on are all source of supply chain uncertainties.

Break down of contract: When there is break down of contractual obligations between Lulu Hypermarkets and its contract logistics partners or 3rd party services providers, it can create uncertainties. This also may include bankruptcy on the part of supplier and service providers that can affect performance. This may results as forecasting errors and information systems breakdown are also threats to the supply chain.

Market slowdown: At a time of global economic slowdown as we are experiencing occasion by sharp drop in the price of crude oil, it usually has multiplier effects on other sectors of the economy, including supply chain networks. Risks associated with inventory include the rate of obsolescence, shrinkage, and demand uncertainty as well as the number and financial strength of customers. There is always the chance that your intellectual property may be compromised by supply chain partners and that your productive capacity loses flexibility.

Climate condition: The unique characteristics of agricultural supply chain are “the biological agricultural production relating to nature, weather and uncontrollable natural forces, perish ability of products and environmental concerns”. Features of demand in agricultural produce supply chains include; variability of consumer demand, misalignment of demand and activities along the chain and poorly managed daily demand are some of the common source of uncertainties. There are some sources of uncertainty in agribusiness supply chains  which are distinct in nature compare to general supply chain that are products perishability, variable harvest and production yields, and the huge impact of climate conditions on upstream, and downstream sides are also source of uncertainty. (Van der Vorst & Beulens 2002).

(C) Based on retailing perspective, what you can advise Lulu Hypermarkets in gaining competitive advantage in Malaysia? Discuss and make a comparison with TESCO, Giant and Mydin.

Lulu Hypermarkets core business is retail and recent research by Deloitte, has placed it amongst the world’s 50 fastest growing retailers. Comparative advantage arises when for instance; a person has advantage at producing something if he/she can produce it at lower cost than anyone else. It must be noted that having a comparative advantage is not the same as being the best at something. In fact, someone can be completely unskilled at doing something, yet still have a comparative advantage at doing it.

In line with the question at hand, the following will be my advice for Lulu Hypermarkets to gains comparative advantage.

Competitive price: Personal experience has shown that differences in cents in Malaysian Ringgit can change consumer buying behaviour. Econ Save is noted for competitive price in vegetables, but not in electronics products for instances. When Lulu Hypermarkets is able to utilize its skilled workforce developed over the years, inexpensive raw materials, controlled costs, and efficient operations to create maximum value to consumers. For instance Walmart uses the cost advantage strategy by providing a very large selection and low prices via its retailer strength and size.

Product/Service Differentiation: Another way Lulu’s can have a competitive advantage in the marketplace is through product/service differentiation. If a company’s product or service has a valuable, unique offering for its consumers, then loyalty and product/service differentiation can occur. Cost competitive advantages can easily disappear with the introduction of a new competitor or new technology. If a company offers a unique product or service, it is harder to maintain an edge in the market based on price alone. The company must offer something to the consumer besides just a low price.

Formulate marketing strategy: In a study by Einsenhardt and Brown’s (1998) on the theory of competitive edge; he suggested that strategies based on flexibility, experimentation and continuous change and learning can be more important than rigorous analysis and planning. A strategy that is focus on consumer behaviour is essential, and this can be undertaking by face to face interview of consumers to know the common factors that can swing their buying decision.

Identify strengths and weaknesses: Citing Porter’s competitive advantage theory which identifies five competitive forces, this theory will enable Lulu’s Hypermarkets to identify its strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the firm has already created a niche in retailing which serves as it strengths compare to if they were new entrant into retailing business. Having known that, focus should be on something else, maybe on transportation or warehouse depending on the model of operation. If the cost of holding inventory is much for instance, they can integrate vendor manage inventory.

Automate Stock keeping: In recent time, creating better business opportunities through SKU proliferation is a technique that an increasing number of companies are starting to adopt. While the advantages of SKU proliferation cannot be ignored, high proliferation can prove to be a nightmare for the supply chain service provider. SKU is used to measure the number of distinct items that a company produces and markets. SKU proliferation is the phenomenon when a product is segmented and transformed into niche products in order to offer people more apparent choices and drive up the sales of the product. Lulu Hypermarket should invest in modern stock keeping technology to track products that are fast moving and slow moving as this will help to curtail holding unnecessary inventory and avoiding obsolesces.

Leverage on advertising: One method to gain an advantage in modern retai business competition is through strategic use of advertising. Good marketing and advertising makes people aware of what products or services a business has to offer. It is used to bring in potential customers. Special advertising strategies can be used to gain the upper hand.

You can win sales by doing a better job at advertising than your opponents, by attacking them in your ads, or even preventing them from advertising. But also, the competitors may be doing the same thing, so a defensive plan must also be in place. Trends is changing from normal news media to online advertisement, Lulu must take advantage of this.

Increased customer service: For competitiveness and sustainable advantage, it is advisable for Lulu’s Supermarkets should endeavor to create value for customers which are only possible by responding with faster answers to the ever changing business environment driven majorly by technological changes.

Planning and forecasting: By competing at the ‘edge of chaos’, a firm creates an organization that can change and produce a continuous flow of competitive advantages, that forms a ‘semi-coherent’ direction. It will be difficult for Lulu Hypermarkets to react to change, without involving in diligent planning and forecasting in order to anticipate and leading change. This method has been found to be effective because of the dynamic nature of the business environment occasioned by changes in technological advancements globalization, conforming to culture and norms of the environment, and changing consumer taste and behaviour.


Tesco: Tesco is one of the world’s largest retailers with over 480,000 employees, they serve millions of customers a week in stores and online. Tesco have established physical presence in Malaysia Since the launch of the business in 2002.They have a network of over 50 hypermarkets, which are serviced by two state of the art distribution centres in Selangor. Tesco have opened many stores across Peninsular Malaysia and recently opened two new stores with a combined floor space of over 4 million square feet.

Giant: Giant pride itself with a slogan of everyday low prices, big variety and great value and recognised for offering the most vibrant, comfortable and complete shopping environment. According to Wikipedia, Giant is one of the largest players of the retail industry in Malaysia, having over 85 branches spread throughout the country. It was founded by the Teng family in 1944. Giant, which turned 65 in 2009, pioneered the concept of modern supermarket shopping; buying everyday groceries, fresh produce and fresh foods under one roof and in a hygienic environment. As the pioneer, Giant sets the pace and standards for the industry with innovative marketing, store design and product pricing and variety.

Mydin: Mydin is a Malaysian chain of hypermarket, supermarket & emporiums. It is notable for bringing local & overseas products at affordable prices catering to a large segment of Malaysian population. (Wikipedia). MYDIN business activity is in retailing and wholesaling. The products range from food line, household, soft-lines and hard-lines items. Hard-line products include hardware, electrical, stationery, porcelain and toys. Whilst soft-line comprises of textiles and fabrics products. Food line includes confectionery, drinks and beverages, delicatessen and dairy products. In their early years of operations, MYDIN’s focus has always been in the non-food sector until they bought over the first supermarket in Selayang in 1997.

Conclusively, and in terms of ownership and market share, Tesco PLC is a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom. It is the third largest retailer in the world measured by profits and second-largest retailer in the world measured by revenues. On the other hand, Giant is one of the largest players of the retail industry in Malaysia, having over 85 branches spread throughout the Malaysia. The only similarity with Tesco is both are in retail sectors and command large market share in Malaysia. MYDIN business activity is not only in retailing but it also includes wholesaling. The products range from food line, household, soft-lines and hard-lines items. Mydin is an indigenous Malaysia Hypermarkets but not strictly retail as it combine the characteristics of wholesale and retail.

(D) What are the advantage and limitation are of centralize purchasing in comparison to decentralized purchasing for Lulu Hypermarkets and which would you suggest and why?

Providing answers to the above questions, the advantage and disadvantages of centralised purchasing are listed below:

  • Bulk quantity of materials can be purchased at a low price with favorable purchasing terms.
  • The service of an efficient, specialized and experienced purchase executive can be obtained.
  • Better layout of stores is possible in centralized stores.
  • Economy in recording and systematic accounting of materials.
  • Transportation costs can be reduced because bulk quantity of materials purchased.
  • Centralized purchasing avoids reckless purchases.
  • Centralized purchasing discourages duplication of efforts.
  • Centralized purchasing helps to maintain uniformity in purchasing policies.
  • Centralized purchasing helps to minimize the investment on inventory.

Limitation of Centralized Purchasing

  • High initial investment has to be made in purchasing.
  • Delay in receiving materials from the centralized store by other departments.
  • Centralized purchasing is not suitable, if branches are located at different geographical locations.
  • In case of an emergency, materials cannot be purchased from local suppliers.
  • Defective materials cannot be replaced timely.

Centralised purchasing refers to the purchase of materials by a single purchase department. This department is headed and managed by a purchasing manager. Under centralized purchasing, all purchases are made by the purchase department to avoid; duplication, overlapping and the non-uniform procurement.  Decentralised purchasing on the other hand refers to purchasing materials by all departments and branches independently to fulfill their needs. Such a purchasing occurs when departments and branches purchase separately and individually. Under decentralized purchasing, there is no one purchasing manager who has the right to purchase materials for all departments and divisions. The defects of centralized purchasing can be overcome by decentralised.

Generally small size organisations accept centralised purchasing. When the purchasing function is entrusted to a single person, it is said to be centralised purchasing. It means all purchases are made by the Purchasing Officer. This type of structure requires a large number of skill sets and purchasing expert. This system may also be too rigid and even unfeasible for large, multi- unit organization consisting of several unrelated business operation. Whereas decentralised purchasing are mostly preferred by large and multi business unit, where the project managers, subsidiary, office or departments purchasing their own products or services. Decentralised purchasing normally has individuals attached to the project manager or office responsible for the purchasing needs of the project or office.

I will suggest a strategic combination of the advantage of centralised and decentralised puchasing. A hybrid system that combines both centralized and decentralized purchasing will augur well for Lulu Hypermakets operation if well harness and integrated into their supply chain. decentralised method can be used at the corporate level and centralised at the business unit level. Centralised purchasing should be recommended for larger organization-wide contracts, but give individual business units autonomy to make small purchases for their departments or subsidiaries. This hybrid system helps the organisation to exploit the advantage of both centralized and decentralised system.

(e) What is “bullwhip” effect” and how it can be reduced in Lulu Hypermarkets supply chain?

When each member of a group in a supply chain tries to maximize his or her own benefit without regard to the impact of other members of the group, the overall effectiveness may suffer. Through the numerous stages of a supply chain; key factors such as time and supply of order decisions, demand for the supply, lack of communication and disorganization can result in one of the most common problems in supply chain management.  This common problem is known as the bullwhip effect.

The bullwhip effect is the amplified response to demand signals as one move “upstream” in the supply chain: from retailers to manufacturers to suppliers to commodity providers. The essence of the phenomenon is the fact that each stage in the supply chain plans its capital projects and operations, including inventory levels, based on its future expectations. The following diagram aptly illustrates bullwhip effect:


Figure 2: bullwhip effect

For example, the Barilla Company, a major pasta producer located in Italy provides a demonstrative of issues resulting from the bullwhip effect. Barilla offered special discounts to their customer who ordered full truckload of their goods. Such marketing deals created customer demand-patterns were highly peaked and volatile. The supply chain costs were so high that they outstripped the benefits from full truckload transportation. The Barilla case was one of the first published cases that empirically supported the bullwhip phenomenon.


Lulu’s Hypermarkets can reduce bullwhip effect through the following:

  • Improve communication in the supply chain
  • Simultaneousness of actions (therefore time delays and reaction times can be avoided)
  • Centralization of disposition
  • Establish strategic alliances
  • Reduce the variability.
  • Information sharing
  • Smooth the flow of products
  • Coordinate with retailers to spread deliveries evenly
  • Reduce minimum batch sizes
  • Smaller and more frequent replenishments
  • Eliminate pathological incentives
  • Every day low price policy
  • Restrict returns and order cancellations
  • Order allocation based on past sales instead of current size in case of shortage

In conclusion, over dependent on forecast should be avoided, instead decision should be based on current business realities because anticipation against forecast and consumer buying experience may change and such anticipation should be communicated to all the partner along the chain bearing any last minutes failure of forecast. In theory, the bullwhip effect does not occur if all orders exactly meet the demand of each period.

This is consistent with findings of supply chain experts who have recognized that the bullwhip effect is a problem in forecast-driven supply chains, and careful management of the effect is an important goal for supply chain managers. Therefore it is necessary to extend the visibility of customer demand as far as possible. One way to achieve this is to establish a demand-driven supply chain which reacts to actual customer orders. (Wikipedia).


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Victor Imhangbe

Hey, there! I am Victor Imhangbe and I am the brain behind this great lifestyle blog where you get to read everything from life to education to fashion and pretty much about everything else. I invite you to keep keeping tab on our latest news and updates!

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