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PA304 Financial Research Methods

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Question:

Learning outcomes assessed:

  • Apply a variety of common processes to gather relevant information
  • Conduct research for defined purposes using a variety of methods
  • Report on research findings relevant to the stated research objectives
  • Apply basic techniques of quantitative and qualitative data analysis
  • Critically evaluate their own and other peoples' research.
 

Answer:

Introduction 

This segment of the paper mainly explains the researches done by previous researchers in similar topics with respect to online retail industry. This section will undertake a comprehensive explanation on the practical and theoretical views of the earlier studies undertaken on online shopping in the retail sector. This is inclusive of the attractiveness of the prices, saving of time, risks that are perceived, excitement and enjoyment, increased interactivity and tangibility. These factors will evaluate the purchasing intention of the customers that is seen in online shopping. Vlachos (2014) explained the purchasing intention as the encouragement of the purchase of the products. It is anticipated that the shoppers are more likely to relate the price attractiveness and time saving with their purpose to shop and on the other hand, in offline shopping the customers are more likely to relate with tangibility, enjoyment, increased interactivity with their purpose to shop. Therefore, the online retailers need to be aware of the issues faced by the customers and the risks to raise their intention to shop online. The designers require recording the needs of the consumers as the usability being the initial point in order to gather confidence and assistance of the consumers. The company has been striving towards growth and has their key strategies with respect to their various products and services offered by them.

 

Overview of Ocado Plc 

Ocado Plc is an UK based online retailer and the principal operations of the company hs been retailing of the grocery and monetization and development of Intellectual Property and the various technologies exploited for the intention of online retailing, distribution of grocery, consumer goods and logistics that have been derived from the various aspects of United Kingdom. The various aspects have been explained as follows:    

Grocery

In online aspect, it becomes vital to make sure that a optimistic experience of the customers as the expense and the luxury of switching among the retailers has been significantly low. In Ocado, the company has been concentrating on enhancing every aspect of the consumer business with the help of quality of their services and the interface of the user, the freshness of the product, the width and the availability of their level and the competitiveness of their product prices (Amaro and Duarte 2015). This enhances the retention of the customers and aids in capturing the market share.

General Merchandise

The centralised operating framework of the firm has assisted in expanding their offer into the general merchandise categories (Safaei Ghadikolaei, Khalili Esbouei and Antucheviciene 2014). The general merchandise that are sold on Ocado.com and have dedicated a website that concentrates on unique range of products like for instance the pet stores, Fetch, the dining and kitchen store Sizzle and the new beauty offering Fabled which is partnership with Marie Claire.

Platform Business

The sustainable investment and innovation in the integrated software and solutions of physical model that enhances a righteous growth cycle in the platform and retail businesses. The future base for the consumers will gain an advantage from the years of development and learning in a lively retail atmosphere in order to create a stable establishment or development to their online activities (Chen, Wang and Jiang 2016).

The development of these strategies can be helpful for the firm in reaching their objectives and in that manner establish them in the online retail industry and generate competitive edge in the market.

 

Firm Performance

The performance of Ocado Plc is understood with the help of the annual report which acts as a window towards observing the performance of the firm. It gives a synopsis of the performance of the firm for an entire year. The annual report is examined by the shareholders, creditors, bankers and the debtors (Shen 2014). The decisions that are financial and non-financial in nature are undertaken with the help of assessing the annual report as it is regarded as most precise source of data in order to understand the financial health as well as the opportunities and threat associated with it (Shi et al. 2017).

A precise understanding of the financial statements is significant for the investment research and assessment. With the help of the financial disclosures, the firms discloses and provides effective data that can have an impact on the uses of the financial records in order to make accurate decisions. The financial performance of the firm can be understood by assessing the statement of income, statement of the financial scenario and the cash flow statement for the company (Piotrowicz and Cuthbertson 2014). On the other hand, the non-financial performance refers to the various social and productive activities like corporate governance that have been undertaken by the company in order to have them and marked and captures the market in UK.    

The market in UK has faced key degree of changes during the past few years as there have been an increase in the customer base for online shopping in UK and Ocado has been a widely accepted company by the consumers. The number of members in their website has gone over 500,000. With the incorporation of the non-food products like the kitchen ware, it has offered valued choices to the customers because of the rise in the range of products. This reveals that the company has been able to satisfy the requirements of the customers. The firm has been able to retain their old customers and has even been able to bring in new customers. With the help of these strategies the company has been able to transform themselves from loss making business to a profitable firm and this aspect has been understood with the assessment of their financial performance (Berg 2014).

By looking at the non-financial aspect of the company, it has been observed that the company has been developing various plans and policies that have made them one of the leaders in the online retail business (Yu, Ramanathan and Nath 2014). The company has an effective corporate governance structure with the help of which various external and internal aspects related to the functioning of the business has enhanced.    

Financial Performance 

There has been a rise in the total asset base with the help of the property acquisition, equipment and plant and even the intangible assets and undertaking investments in joint ventures. The liabilities that are non-current in nature have risen due to the increase in the retained earnings and issue of shares with the help of which the closing equity has increased. The financial performance and the financial health of the company can be well understood with the help various ratios.

Liquidity Ratio: The liquidity ratio assesses the capability of an organization in order to create cash so that the immediate liabilities can be satisfied with flexibility and ease.

Efficiency Ratio: The efficiency ratios are even known as the Activity ratios or the Turnover ratio and it analyses the level of effectiveness with the help of which the company has been able to employ their assets.

Inventory Turnover Ratio: The Inventory Turnover Ratio assesses the swiftness with which the inventory is moving and creating cash. There has been a marginal enhancement in this ratio in comparison to the previous year and this indicates that the company has been having better inventory management.   

Debtor’s Turnover Ratio: This ratio explains the number of times the sundry debtors turn over during a year. It is explained as net credit sales and when the debtor ratio is high, it indicates greater effectiveness of the credit management. It has been observed that there has been an improvement in this ratio as well for Ocado Plc.   

Profitability Ratio: The profitability ratios are a kind of financial indicators that can be exploited to assess the capability of the firm in order to create profit in comparison to their expenditure and other precise costs that have taken place during a particular time frame. In most of these ratios, having an increased value in relation to the value of their competitors or specific to the same ratio from past year reveals that the firm has been doing significantly well.

ROCE: The Return on Capital Employed is defined as the income before income and tax and assesses the profitability of the firm in accordance to the employed capital. An increased return discloses a more precise utilisation of the capital (Macht and Weatherston 2014). An effective ROCE would be more than the cost of capital and thereby would mean that the firm is not utilising their capital in an effective manner and not creating value for the shareholders. There has been an improvement in the ratio from the last year and this indicates that the firm has been able to employ their capital in a precise manner.

Return on Assets: This ratio explains the profitability of the firm with respect to their total assets. It has been explained that net profit after tax and dividends after the total assets. This ratio has even enhanced with a rise from the last year. There has been a negative ratio for the company in the year 2013 indicating that the company faced losses but from the year onward they having making profits and in the current year, the ratio has increased significantly.       

Non-financial Performance 

The UK Corporate Governance Code was updated by The Council of Financial Reporting in 2014. This code indicates to the reporting that is undertaken within the timeframe 1st October 2014 and does not apply to the firms that have their reporting ended on 30th November 2014. In order to ascertain the transparency along with the declarations the board has implemented certain provisions. Ocado has therefore combined all the principles and the provisions in relation to the code of 2012. The aspects that have not been combined are explicitly explained in the corporate governance statement and also in the Director’s Remuneration Report. The firm has tried to stay in line with the 2012 code and the firm looks to define how the practices are well tuned with the principles by looking at the provisions and give out a contribution to the corporate governance (Zentes, Morschett and Schramm-Klein 2017).

The corporate governance report of the company is effectively constructed and framed as it concentrates on the major aspects like the functioning and the structure of the board, the board’s soundness and connection with the company shareholders, furthermore, the report of the remuneration committee is even stated in the Director’s Remuneration Report. The risk associated with the firm and the internal control structure is generated as to how the risks are managed. These sections have been defined in the corporate governance statement that focuses in the fact that how effectively is the lucidness if the firm is maintained (Catlin, Scanlan and Willmott 2015).

The Board is totally accountable for the accomplishment of the long term success. By looking at the corporate governance statement, it can be observed that the board looks to accomplish the company’s success by staying in line with the rules and making sure that the operations are performed in a lucid manner. The committee is constructed with respect to the rules associated with corporate governance. The board composition is undertaken with the help of 2012 code.   

Ratio Analysis 

Particulars

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Ratio

0.73

0.34

0.47

2.5

1.45

1.17

1.13

0.88

0.7

0.51

Quick Ratio

0.45

0.18

0.3

2.29

0.93

0.97

0.94

0.64

0.41

0.36

Financial Leverage

0

0

0

1.76

2.09

2.18

2.46

2.47

2.45

2.67

Debt to Equity

0

0

0

0.32

0

0.59

0.66

0.66

0.6

0.51

Particulars

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Inventory Turnover

22.27

25.11

30.48

32.64

0

26.93

26.31

24.7

25.48

24.22

Asset Turnover

2.17

2.57

3.07

2.35

1.8

1.68

1.67

1.83

1.96

1.97

Receivables Turnover

254.29

157.62

92.3

81.44

63.56

67.96

50.78

58.04

56.94

28.66

Return On Asset %

-31.98%

-26.58%

-17.75%

-3.39%

-0.15%

-0.59%

-2.64%

1.41%

2.09%

1.86%

Return On Equity

0%

0%

0%

-0.96%

-0.79%

0.8%

-1.60%

4.32%

5.19%

4.32%

By looking at the current ratio and the quick ratio for the past ten years explains that the company has not been financially healthy as most of the years their values has been below 1. This indicates that the company does not have the ability to pay off their liabilities if deemed necessary. There have been years when the ratios have been over 1 but the company has been unable to maintain the same in a continuous manner. The financial leverage as well as the debt to equity ratio is not significantly good indicating that the financial performance of the company has not been so good (Lewis, Whysall and Foster 2014). The organization has a poor financial health and therefore measures have to be taken in order to re-stabilise their financial condition. The assessment of the other ratios even indicates that the company has not been performing effectively for the past ten years and hence reconstruction of the financial policies has to be taken in order to enhance the financial health of the company.     

Summary 

The literature review looks to assess the financial and the non-financial performance of Ocado Plc and the results indicate that the company even though faced losses on their initial period of operations in the market has been able to turn themselves into profit making firm. The corporate governance structure has been framed with respect to the codes that have been laid in UK and therefore assessment of the financial and the non-financial performance indicates that the company has an effective policy that leads to effective performance of the firm for the past ten years. The company has enhanced their performance as they have moved forward with time.  

This section of the paper would try to assess the various areas and the sources that have been used in order to gather financial data and information regarding Ocado Plc. The research philosophy would explain the philosophy that has been chosen in order to gather the data and the reason why such data has been chosen in order to complete the research. The research approach and the research design would even be discussed in order to have an idea about the process that would be followed. The measurement and the variables would even be explained along with the selection of sample and the process of data gathering (Vlachos 2014). The analytical process and the ethical issues would even be explained in this paper.

 

Research Philosophy

Research philosophy is helpful for the researcher to realise the spirit of the research by exploiting the efficient research theory. Research philosophy consists of four various kinds, which is inclusive of interpretivism, positivism, realism and pragmatism. As explained by Silverman (2016), the research philosophy has various traits of features, which are namely known as ontology, epistemology and axiology. Positivism philosophy is on the basis of the continuation of reality by exploiting scientifically proved mechanisms. Conversely, interpretivism philosophy is on the basis of gaining knowledge about the experiences and identification of individuals. On the other hand, Smith (2015) debated that positivism philosophy assists the paper to assess the information that is collected by exploiting the qualitative and quantitative processes. The realism philosophy is implied to the matters of the research paper. However, pragmatism philosophy is a combination of the philosophies of interpretivism and positivism for attaining increased preciseness in the outcome of the paper.

Figure 1: Figure showing the different research philosophies

The paper under consideration concentrates on dissecting the financial data of Ocado Plc in order to assess the financial performance of the company for the past ten years. Hence, in the current scenario, the researcher has made an effort to assess the financial performance of Ocado Plc by taking help of the annual report of the company. As a result, the researcher has implied the positivism philosophy by connecting the theories and frameworks that have been explained in the section of the literature review with the current circumstances (Wang 2014). As the present paper concentrates on assessing the financial performance of Ocado Plc in detail, positivism is the most precise philosophy for answering the financial data of the company for the past ten years. The researcher has not implied the other philosophies, as they are not reliant on models and frameworks that have been proved scientifically.

 In the research methodology, research onion has a significant role to play in precisely making use of the most effective equipments for the research. Furthermore, the researcher, by taking assistance of the research onion, gains suitable outcomes for the paper. Additionally, the research onion is a precise method, in which the assessor could gain the outcome by concluding six variable tasks. The six layers or levels of research onion are associated directly to the research techniques and process that could be utilised by the researcher. Moreover, the research onion also assists in precise utilisation of the research philosophy, research strategies and time frame for the research.    

Variables measurement and definitions 

The variables that have been used in this paper are explained as follows:

Research Approach 

This is one of the crucial mechanisms that is required for the generation of the paper in order to gain the research objectives. The research approach encourages the researcher to examine the benefits of undertaking the research and thereby discovering the data that would be useful for the attainment of precise outcomes (Brinkmann 2014). The approach of the research consists of deductive and inductive approach and in this paper inductive approach has been taken into consideration as the researcher knows that this research would mainly rely in the secondary data that would be collected from the annual reports of Ocado Plc for the past ten years. This approach follows the part trends and frameworks that have been used by other researchers and hence this process is ideal for this paper.

Research Design 

The design of the research assists the researchers in the creation of an opportunity of constructing the research in attaining towards a distinct target in accordance to the research objectives. The design of the research encourages the researcher to provide an explanation to the compelling outcomes that have been put forth by the paper with respect to the targets that have been pre-determined (Flick 2015). By assessing the case study that is in relation to the assessing the financial performance of Ocado Plc, it has been observed that longitudinal process is the appropriate option as it aids in the development of the strategies which acts as the general orientation in order to undertake the research. Explanatory design would be used for this research as this paper provides an explanation of the financial data that has been gathered from the annual report. It acts as the general plan of the process with the help of which the researcher would be able to answer the topic of the research. The selection of the research strategy is reliant upon the absence and the presence of the measurement variables (Kogut and Fleck 2017). It is reliant on the relation between the research and the theory that is in relation to the epistemological and ontological attitude of the researcher. This paper is a quantitative research as this paper deals with the gathering of the data and then assessment of the same. The benefits of quantitative research are the simplicity of the analysis and generalisation from the sample.   

Research Strategy 

The strategy that is used in accordance to this paper has been to make use of quantitative data and thereby undertaking quantitative data analysis in order to gain the results that is suitable for gaining the appropriate results. The research strategy is fundamental in the development of step by step process with the help of which all the data are gathered suitably and thereafter can be used for the purpose gaining the suitable results.   

Sample Selection, Sample Size and Data Collection Process 

The method of sampling explains the procedure with the help of which the method of data collection in relation to the topic of the research is selected from the concerned data set. There are two kinds of data that are available for the purpose of completing a research. They are the primary data and the secondary data. The primary data comprises of the data that has been gathered for the first time and these data have not been used for any previous studies. The primary data is mostly collected from the respondents who have been selected in order to conclude a research (Anand and Grover 2015). On the secondary data are the data that has been used previously in order to complete the data. Secondary data has been gathered from various articles and journals with the help of which information can be completed. The annual report of companies is even used in order to gather the data as deemed appropriate.

In this paper secondary data has been collected from the annual report with the help of statistical method. The limitations of the secondary data are that it may not provide the answers that are required in the paper as the data available may not be accurate and precise. The sample size that has been considered in this paper comprises of the annual report of the last ten years of Ocado Plc with the help of which an understanding of the financial performance of the company can be understood in an effective manner. The data that is gathered is filtered in Excel sheets where various tools are used in order to generate the precise results desired by the researcher. The financial parameters are outlined previously in order to make the research transparent and lucid.

This paper has utilised the quantitative data as the financial figures are collected from the annual report in order to undertake extensive assessment of the same. This paper looks to assess the financial performance for the last ten years of the chosen company and hence primary data is of no use to the researcher as fresh and new data would not help the researcher to understand the aspects that would be deemed necessary to complete this paper. The secondary data that is collected from the annual reports would be segregated and the data that would be useful for the purpose of constructing the financial ratios would be used in order to make the research precise and not much lengthy (Naranjo-Valencia et al. 2016). The analytical procedure consists of mechanisms that would be used to assess the data that has been gathered.

Analytical Procedure 

The analytical process explains the tools that would be used for the purpose assessment of the data. The data is therefore collected and placed in the Excel sheet in order to compute the ratios and in that manner undertake a comparison of the financial performance for the last ten years for the company (Shin and Eksioglu 2014). Quantitative data has been used in this paper and hence statistical method has been used. The statistical method explains the financial figures with the help of the ratios and in that manner explains how the company has been performing for the past ten years.    

Ethical Issues 

The researcher in order to make the research paper authentic and fair has tried to gather all the data in a very ethical manner and has been in line with the ethical and financial codes and regulations that have been constructed by the international bodies. The researcher are restricted the utilisation of any techniques that can be looked upon as unethical and therefore has tried to gather the information after precise investigation of the resource from where the data is available (Panneerselvam 2014). There are possibilities that the company may disclose faulty financial data in order to satisfy their stakeholders and hence the researcher has even cross checked the data with the statements that have been submitted to government in order to discover that the data gathered is precise. The maintenance of the ethics is fundamental as this leads to the construction of an authentic paper that can be looked down upon as an example and can be used by other researchers in the coming years with the idea of gathering certain knowledge that can complete their paper effectively.     

Summary 

This segment of the paper therefore highlights the course and the method that has been used for the purpose of gathering the data and the type of data used that can be useful for the completion of the data. The paper has made use of the positivism philosophy along with the deductive approach so that effective data can be collected with respect to this paper. Explanatory research design has been used as it has been useful for the collection data and answering of the techniques that have been useful for the completion of the paper. The data that has been collected is gone through the extensive assessment with the help of excel software so that the financial ratios can be constructed.   

 

Conclusion 

This paper has looked to explain the financial performance of Ocado Plc for the past ten years and in that manner tried to gain knowledge about the current position of the organization. The introduction of the paper explains the background of the company and in that manner explains the various variables and the factors that have an impact on the financial performance of the company. The rationale along with the aims and objectives of the research has been constructed which leads to the development of the process that would be undertaken for the completion of the paper. The limitations of the research are even explained in order to make an idea about the areas that could not be explained.

 The review of literature explains the various variables and parameters that are associated with the company that has been functioning in the economy of United Kingdom. The methodology of the research explains the process and the course that has been used by the researcher in order to gather the data and in that manner undertake analysis of the data. The assessment of the data explains that Ocado Plc has not been functioning effectively and the financial health of the firm has not been good. Hence, it is the duty of the company to undertake various measures and strategies with the help of which they can improve the operational functions of the firm and in that manner improve their financial performance and maintain competitive edge in the economy.          

Limitation of the Research

Every research that is constructed has their limitations as well. With respect to this paper, it has been observed that limitation of the paper has been the limitation of time as this has limited the researcher to undertake extensive research on the desired topic and to look for more detailed data that would be useful for understanding the financial performance of Ocado Plc. The other limitation has been that the data that has been collected from the annual report of the firm had to be used for comparative analysis with the help of various accounting tools. In certain instances there are possibilities that the results may not be appropriate.   

 

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Zentes, J., Morschett, D. and Schramm-Klein, H., 2017. Monitoring Operational and Financial Performance. In Strategic Retail Management (pp. 441-461). Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden.

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