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On December 14, 2015, ALULA commented on RadioShack: A Fallen Retail Giant :

I was wondering the same thing around what the results would have been had they honed in on a specific target market – perhaps their previous customers – and tailored their product line around that customer base’s interests. I believe that would have 1) allowed them to more appropriately choose the correct items to stock in their stores and 2) better understand their purchases patterns and, in turn, reacted more swiftly to the move towards e-commerce.

It would still be difficult to compete with an e-commerce giant like Amazon, but they would have at least maintained a strong hold on their niche market and focused their efforts around operations optimization to reduce material and supply chain costs.

Great to see the opportunity UP is creating for these students. I’ve worked with a charter school when I was living in Chicago and it was sad to know how many students outside of that charter network were going under served. I echo Gerrit’s concerns around teacher burnout because often times these teachers are new and/or inexperienced and are faced with a steep learning curve. Furthermore, they’re being brought in because the school has been facing serious issues, which is a tough environment to develop within in a healthy manner.

While I love their mission, I do wonder how well they will be able to scale this model as they encounter more and more troubled K-12 institutions. Finding 50-85 capable and available staff who are willing to take on such a challenge on an annual basis is both difficult and expensive. I wonder how often UP is able or willing to leverage existing staff within the failing school and putting them through UP capacity development programs as a means of reducing costs and leveraging existing knowledge and experiences. That said, I hope they are able to scale and excel – the students need it!

On December 14, 2015, ALULA commented on The Rise and Fall of Sears :

Thanks for posting, James! Sad to see a department store I used to visit growing up lose its direction and diversify itself into debt. I remember witnessing the growth in diversification across clothing, tools, home decor, and even automotive (tires and insurance). I agree that their attempt to compete online was both late and poorly executed given the industries progression. I wonder if they had considered assessing the business in sections, across the aforementioned segments to determine which parts of the business were worth retaining and which they should divest. Their middle-America market certainly still exists, but I feel like it was a matter of trying to serve that market across too many business lines. This led them down a path of greater breadth of exposure, but little depth in any core business.

On December 14, 2015, ALULA commented on Dangote Cement: A Story of Market Dominance :

Good insight into how Dangote Cement has strategically positioned itself within the market to compete on both cost and quality metrics. As DC begins to migrate outside of the Nigerian borders to other African countries – Ethiopia, for instance – I wonder how much of their competitive edge they will be able to leverage. While DC is firmly positioned as an “indigenous” in Nigeria, I could see how this would be a running risk upon expansion. For one, similar regulations of favorability towards local firms could be adopted in the nations they begin to operate in. Secondly, I could see how local business man/women in other nations may be able to leverage their in-country relationships and knowledge of cultural context to gain a competitive. The 5 year lead time for getting a cement factory up and running leaves a large window of opportunity for competitors to gain a competitive advantage in these other markets.