Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Triangle

The most relevant triangle problem situation I observed was during my internship at Sears. I was working with the buying team for ranges and microwaves. As a buyer, the responsibility was to create a strategy to have the right type of product assortment in the stores at the right price to best satisfy the customer.  This was achieved by meeting with companies that were providing this product for Sears.

The complicated triangle relationship can be seen if one considers who the buyer must satisfy with their actions. The most important party involved is Sears Corporation itself. The role of the buyer is to make decisions that make the department most profitable. Another party is the customer. Ultimately, the buyer should make decisions as to what products to place in the stores based on preferences of the client to make them most happy and create store loyalty. While the buyer places the correct product in the store to generate profit for the company, the buyer's role is also about pleasing the customer. Another party is the vendors that meet with the buyer such as LG or GE and offer the product to the buyer. The buyer needs to maintain a good relationship with the vendor, otherwise the partnership will fall apart.

With this in mind, I have seen first hand how the Vice President of the department is unsatisfied with the buyer for not bringing in the right amount of profit for the week. I have also witnessed customers complain about a certain product not being on the shelf when it should. I also saw the vendor be very upset when their product is being discontinued due to low sales, or not featured in the marketing as they would like.

This being said, it is extremely hard to keep all parties satisfied with decisions made when multiple interests must be considered, sometimes even opposing interests. It was especially frustrating to me when one party was getting the majority of the benefit when the two other parties suffered because of it. My example is the vendor Kenmore. Kenmore is the house brand meaning that Sears owns the brand. Despite it being under Sears, Kenmore cares for its own interests first. I was present at a meeting between a Kenmore representative and the buyer. The person from Kenmore basically told what new product will be on the shelf. The product being suggested would not sell due to the price range and the demand for this type of microwave was just not there. I knew that as an intern and the buyer of course knew it as well. I was astounded as the Kenmore representative told that it will be put on shelf, and the buyer explained her concerns, which were not even taken into account.

I was amazed at how the decision was undermining the well being of Sears as the product will not sell and the customer as they do not demand that product. Unfortunately, sometimes, one party has enough power to make the agent sacrifice other parties interests to make that one party happy. That I do not consider to be a good or healthy relationship, as the agent should strive to keep at least somewhat of a balance between the parties. 


  1. Interesting story. I'm under the impression that Sears has been on the decline for a while, but I didn't realize it was shooting itself in the foot like that. It used to have a near monopoly in this space, but now there is a lot of competition, for example from Walmart. You would think that would determine these decisions rather than internal politics.

  2. Sears is on the decline, but they have been doing many things to revitalize the business. Most of their top executives are new now and they are driving a new strategy that I think has a chance to compete with the other retailers.
    Not many people know that things have changed though. I think they have to voice the changes they are doing to their customer base to once again gain their trust.

    Regrading the lack of communication and internal politics, I really did not like that either. At the same time, I have yet to see a larger organization where this is not the case.