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Industry Analysis: The Five Forces
Cole Ehmke, Joan Fulton, and Jay Akridge
Department of Agricultural Economics

Kathleen Erickson, Erickson Communications

Sally Linton
Department of Food Science

Assessing Your Marketplace
The economic structure of an industry is not an accident.
Its complexities are the result of long-term social trends and
economic forces. But its effects on you as a business manager
are immediate because it determines the competitive rules
and strategies you are likely to use. Learning about that
structure will provide essential insight for your business

Michael Porter has identified five forces that are widely used to
assess the structure of any industry. Porter’s five forces are the:

• Bargaining power of suppliers,

• Bargaining power of buyers,

• Threat of new entrants,

• Threat of substitutes, and

• Rivalry among competitors.

Together, the strength of the five forces determines the profit
potential in an industry by influencing the prices, costs, and
required investments of businesses—the elements of return
on investment. Stronger forces are associated with a more
challenging business environment. To identify the important
structural features of your industry via the five forces, you
conduct an industry analysis that answers the question,
“What are the key factors for competitive success?”

Using This Publication
This publication describes five forces that influence an
industry. The publication includes a set of application
questions that will help you evaluate the structure of the
industry you are in or are considering entering. The more you
understand about the strength of each force, the better able
you will be to respond.

The forces affecting profitability are often beyond your
control, so you must choose tactics to respond to the forces
rather than try to change the business environment. This
publication offers insight on specific tactics you need for
success when facing competitive situations. While you may
assess any one force individually, you will gain the most value
by assessing all five of the forces

With each force, a “Perspective” feature illustrates the force
for an Indiana wine entrepreneur by evaluating that market-
place. To avoid repetition, we use the word “product” to mean
either a product or a service. Read more about the five forces
in Porter’s book, Competitive Strategy.

Audience: Business managers seeking to assess
the nature of their marketplace

Content: Presents five forces that influence the
profitability of an industry

Outcome: Reader should understand the forces
and be able to counter them with appropriate

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Bargaining Power of Suppliers

How Much Power Do Your
Suppliers Have Over You?
Any business requires inputs—labor, parts, raw materials,
and services. The cost of your inputs can have a significant
effect on your company’s profitability. Whether the strength of
suppliers represents a weak or a strong force hinges on the
amount of bargaining power they can exert and, ultimately,
on how they can influence the terms and conditions of
transactions in their favor. Suppliers would prefer to sell to
you at the highest price possible or provide you with no more
services than necessary. If the force is weak, then you may be
able to negotiate a favorable business deal for yourself.
Conversely, if the force is strong, then you are in a weak
position and may have to pay a higher price or accept a lower
level of quality or service.

Factors Affecting the
Bargaining Power of Suppliers
Suppliers have the most power when:

• The input(s) you require are available only from a
small number of suppliers. For instance, if you are
making computers and need microprocessors, you will
have little or no bargaining power with Intel, the
world’s dominant supplier.

• The inputs you require are unique, making it costly to
switch suppliers. If you use a certain enzyme in a food
manufacturing process, changing to another supplier
may require you to change your entire manufacturing
process. This may be very costly to you, thus you will
have less bargaining power with your supplier.

• Your input purchases don’t represent a significant
portion of the supplier’s business. If the supplier does
not depend on your business, you will have less power
to negotiate. Of course the opposite is true as well.
Wal-Mart has significant negotiating power over its
suppliers because it is such a large percentage of
suppliers’ business.

• Suppliers can sell directly to your customers,
bypassing the need for your business. For example, a
manufacturer could open its own retail outlet and
compete against you.

• It is difficult for you to switch to another supplier. For
example, if you recently invested in a unique
inventory and information management system to
work effectively with your supplier, it would be
expensive for you to switch suppliers.

• You do not have a full understanding of your
supplier’s market. You are less able to negotiate if you
have little information about market demand, prices,
and supplier’s costs.

Reducing the Bargaining Power of
Most businesses don’t have the resources to produce their own
inputs. If you are in this position, then you might consider
forming a partnership with your supplier. This can result in a
more even distribution of power. For instance, Dell Computer
uses partnering with its components suppliers as a key
strategy to be the low-cost/high-quality leader in the market.
This can be mutually beneficial for both supplier and buyer if
they can:

• Reduce inventory costs by providing just-in-time

• Enhance the value of goods and services supplied by
making effective use of information about customer
needs and preferences, and

• Speed the adoption of new technologies.

Another option may be to increase your power by forming a
buying group of small producers to buy as one large-volume
customer. If you have the resources, you may choose to
integrate back and produce your own inputs by purchasing
one of your key suppliers or doing the production yourself.

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1. Are there a large number of potential input
suppliers? The greater number of suppliers of
your needed inputs, the more control you will

2. Are the products that you need to purchase
for your business ordinary? You have more
control when the products you need from a
supplier are not unique.

3. Do your purchases from suppliers represent a
large portion of their business? If your
purchases are a relatively large portion of
your supplier’s business, you will have more
power to lower costs or improve product






4. Would it be difficult for your suppliers to
enter your business, sell directly to your
customers, and become your direct
competitor? The easier it is to start a new
business, the more likely it is that you will
have competitors.

5. Can you easily switch to substitute products
from other suppliers? If it is relatively easy to
switch to substitute products, you will have
more negotiating room with your suppliers.

6. Are you well informed about your supplier’s
product and market? If the market is
complicated or hard to understand, you have
less bargaining power with your suppliers.

Self Assessment—Bargaining Power of Suppliers
This i
“Yes” or “No” in the space provided. “Yes” indicates a favorable competitive environment for your business. “No” indicates a
negative situation. Use the insight you gain to develop effective tactics for countering or taking advantage of the situation.

Perspective on Bargaining Power of Suppliers

For an Indiana winery, one of the main supply decisions lies
with the key product ingredients—winegrapes and juice.
Wineries have several options, including owning the
vineyard, purchasing grapes, or purchasing juice. An
overabundance of winegrapes and juice from the West Coast
of the U.S., for instance, enhances Indiana wineries’
negotiating power with grape and juice suppliers. However,
the bargaining power of Indiana wineries is generally
weakened due to lack of winegrape growing experience.

If the winery needs a specific grape variety for a particular
wine, then the manager needs to be concerned about the
supply and demand for the product. As supply becomes
short, the manager will find that suppliers have increasing
bargaining power.

Raw materials for wine production are commodity items that
are very cyclical in price, quality, and availability. There are
times when high-quality grapes can be bought for low prices
(over supply) and other times when particular grape varieties

or juice are almost non-existent. This can have a
significant effect on a winery. And it is something the
manager has no control over. For example, if a late spring
frost hits the New York vineyards, the tender varieties will
not produce enough grapes to satisfy demand for the year.

Small wineries are particularly challenged because they
do not have the leverage associated with volume that the
larger wineries have. As a result, the force of suppliers on
a small winery can be viewed as relatively strong.
However, a manager of an Indiana winery could decrease
the effect by cooperating with other small players to
make collective purchases.

Contracts and positive relationships with suppliers and
producers are another way a small winery can manage
the uncertainty and power of suppliers. Recognizing the
power of suppliers and the influence of outside factors
(e.g., knowledge and weather) is an important
consideration as a small winery finds a place in the market.

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Many small customers acting as a group can create a strong
force. For instance, because of their size, health maintenance
organizations (HMOs) can purchase health care from
hospitals and doctors at much lower cost than can individual

Note that not all buyers will have the same degree of bargain-
ing power with you or be as sensitive to price, quantity, or
service. For example, apparel makers face significant buyer
power when selling to large retailers like Wal-Mart or
department stores, but face a much more favorable situation
when selling to smaller specialty shops.

Factors Influencing the
Bargaining Power of Buyers
Buyers have more power when:

• Your industry has many small companies supplying
the product and buyers are few and large. For
example, you may have little negotiating power if you
and several competing companies are trying to sell
similar products to one large buyer.

• The products represent a relatively large expense for
your customers. Customers may not price shop for a
quart of oil, but they will price shop if purchasing a
new vehicle.

Bargaining Power of Buyers

How Much Negotiating Power Do
Your Buyers Have?
The power of buyers describes the effect that your customers
have on the profitability of your business. The transaction
between the seller and the buyer creates value for both parties.
But if buyers (who may be distributors, consumers, or other
manufacturers) have more economic power, your ability to
capture a high proportion of the value created will decrease,
and you will earn lower profits.

How Much Power Do Your Buyers
Have Over You?
Buyers have the most power when they are large and purchase
much of your output. If your business sells to a few large
buyers, they will have significant leverage to negotiate lower
prices and other favorable terms because the threat of losing
an important buyer puts you in a weak position. Buyers also
have power if they can play suppliers against each other. In
the automotive supply industry, the large car manufacturers
have significant power. There are only a few large buyers, and
they buy in large quantities. But, when there are many
smaller buyers, you will have greater control because each
buyer is a small portion of your sales.

List the major inputs
needed for your business.

For each input,
list possible suppliers.

How can you best work with this supplier
to maximize your bargaining power?






Further Assessment
Using a pencil and sheet of paper, examine in greater detail how the bargaining power of suppliers will affect your business.

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• Customers have access to and are able to evaluate
market information. You have less room for
negotiation if buyers know market demand, prices,
and your costs.

• Your product is not unique and can be purchased
from other suppliers. If your brand is homogenous or
similar to all of the others, buyers will base their
decision mainly on price.

• Customers could possibly make your product
themselves. Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Heinz are
examples of companies that have integrated back into
metal can manufacturing to fill the balance of their
container needs.

• Customers can easily, and with little cost, switch to
another product. For example, IBM customers might
switch to Gateway or Dell, but it may be inconvenient
for them to consider Macintosh.

Reducing the Bargaining Power of
You can reduce the bargaining power of your customers by
increasing their loyalty to your business through partnerships
or loyalty programs, selling directly to consumers, or increas-
ing the inherent or perceived value of a product by adding
features or branding. In addition, if you can select the
customers who have little knowledge of the market and have
less power, you can enhance your profitability.

Perspective on Bargaining Power of Buyers

Indiana wineries have three types of buyers—direct
consumers, wholesalers, and retail outlets. Direct
consumers are mostly tourists out for the day, weekend, or
even a weeklong vacation. In this situation, competition for
those buyers is actually any travel destination in the area
competing for their leisure time. Would the buyers rather
visit a state park or a museum than a winery? A winery
can reduce the bargaining power of these customers by
offering unique products and events that offer high value.

Wholesalers have a significant amount of bargaining power
because they are few in number and have a considerable
influence over the wines that are sold on the retail shelf.
Thus, the bargaining power of small wineries is weak

compared to that of the wholesalers. In Indiana,
counteracting legislation allows small wineries to sell
directly to retail outlets without using a wholesaler.
While the bargaining power of one of these wineries
with retail outlets is still weak, the winery has the
benefit of offering a local Indiana product that is in
demand with consumers.

Overall for Indiana wineries, buyers have more power
than the entrepreneurs. This is due to the fact that direct
consumers have multiple options for entertainment, and
wholesalers and retail outlets have thousands of wine
brands to choose from. Therefore, a small winery owner
must be creative in dealings with consumers, usually by
offering loyalty programs and increasing perceived value.

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List the types of customers that
you have or expect to have.

What alternatives might these
customers have for your product?

How can you build loyalty for your product
or service to reduce customer bargaining power?






Further Assessment
Using a pencil and sheet of paper, examine in greater detail how the bargaining power of buyers will affect your business.

Self Assessment—Bargaining Power of Buyers
respond with “Yes” or “No” in the space provided. “Yes” indicates a favorable competitive environment for your business. “No” indicates
a negative situation. Use the insight you gain to develop effective tactics for countering or taking advantage of the situation.

1. Do you have enough customers such that
losing one isn’t critical to your success? The
smaller the number of customers, the more
dependent you are on each one of them.

2. Does your product represent a small expense
for your customers? If your product is a
relatively large expense for your customers,
they’ll expend more effort negotiating with
you to lower price or improve product

3. Are customers uninformed about your
product and market? If your market is
complicated or hard to understand, buyers
have less control.




4. Is your product unique? If your product is
homogenous or the same as your competitors’,
buyers have more bargaining power.

5. Would it be difficult for buyers to integrate
backward in the supply chain, purchase a
competitor providing the products you provide,
and compete directly with you? The less likely
a customer will enter your industry, the more
bargaining power you have.

6. Is it difficult for customers to switch from
your product to your competitors’ products?
If it is relatively easy for your customers to
switch, you will have less negotiating power
with your customers.




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Threat of New Entrants
How Easy Is It for Businesses to
Enter Your Market?
You may have the market cornered with your product, but
your success may inspire others to enter the business and
challenge your position. The threat of new entrants is the
possibility that new firms will enter the industry. New entrants
bring a desire to gain market share and often have significant
resources. Their presence may force prices down and put
pressure on profits.

Analyzing the threat of new entrants involves examining the
barriers to entry and the expected reactions of existing firms
to a new competitor. Barriers to entry are the costs and/or
legal requirements needed to enter a market. These barriers
protect the companies already in business by being a hurdle
to those trying to enter the market. In addition to up-front
barriers, a new competitor may inspire established companies
to react with tactics to deter entry, such as lowering prices or
forming partnerships. The chance of reaction is high in
markets where firms have a history of retaliation, excess cash,
are committed to the industry (see Rivalry Among Competitors),
or the industry has slow growth.

Unique Barriers
Entry barriers are unique for each industry and situation,
and can change over time. Most barriers stem from irrevers-
ible resource commitments you must make in order to enter
a market. For example, if the existing businesses have well-
established brand names and fully differentiated products,
as a potential market entrant you will need to undertake an
expensive marketing campaign to introduce your products.
Barriers to entry are usually higher for companies involved
in manufacturing than for companies that provide a service
because there is often a significant expense in setting up a
production facility.

Another type of entry barrier is regulatory. To produce organic
food there is a three-year wait before land may be certified.
During the waiting period, producers must raise the crop as
organic, but may not market it as organic until the three-year
“cleansing process” of the land is completed.

Overcoming barriers to entry may involve expending signifi-
cant resources over an extended period of time. Industries
based on patentable technology may require an especially
long-term commitment, with years of research and testing,
before products can be introduced and compete.

Factors Affecting the Threat of
New Entrants
The threat of new entrants is greatest when:

• Processes are not protected by regulations or patents.
In contrast, when licenses and permits are required to
do business, such as with the liquor industry, existing
firms enjoy some protection from new entrants.

• Customers have little brand loyalty. Without strong
brand loyalty, a potential competitor has to spend
little to overcome the advertising and service
programs of existing firms and is more likely to enter
the industry.

• Start-up costs are low for new businesses entering the
industry. The less commitment needed in advertising,
research and development, and capital assets, the
greater the chance of new entrants to the industry.

• The products provided are not unique. When the
products are commodities and the assets used to
produce them are common, firms are more willing to
enter an industry because they know they can easily
liquidate their inventory and assets if the venture fails.

• Switching costs are low. In situations where customers
do not face significant one-time costs from switching
suppliers, it is more attractive for new firms to enter
the industry and lure the customers away from their
previous suppliers.

• The production process is easily learned. Just as
competitors may be scared away when the learning
curve is steep, competitors will be attracted to an
industry where the production process is easily

• Access to inputs is easy. Entry by new firms is easier
when established firms do not have favorable access to
raw materials, locations, or government subsidies.

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• Access to customers is easy. For instance, it may be
easy to rent space to sell produce at a farmer’s market,
but nearly impossible to get shelf space in a grocery store.
You are more likely to find new entrants in the food
business using the farmer’s market distribution system
over grocery stores.

• Economies of scale are minimal. If there is little
improvement in efficiency as scale (or size) increases,
a firm entering a market won’t be at a disadvantage if
it doesn’t produce the large volume that an existing
firm produces.

Reducing the Threat of
New Entrants
Enhancing your marketing/brand image, utilizing patents,
and creating alliances with associated products can minimize
the threat of new entrants. Important tactics you can follow
include demonstrating your ability and desire to retaliate to
potential entrants and setting a product price that deters entry.
Because competitors may enter the industry if there are excess
profits, setting a price that earns positive but not excessive
profits could lessen the threat of new entry in your industry.

Perspective on Threat of New Entrants

The threat of new entrants has a unique twist in the
winery business. A winery is not an easy business to start
because it is capital intensive and market entry can take
multiple years due to licensing requirements and initial
production time for vineyards and wine. A strong
knowledge base is also required in order to make high-
quality wine and understand the complexities of the
industry. Thus, there are significant barriers to entry.

However, in at least one respect, competitors are
complementary for Indiana wineries. When several
wineries exist in close proximity, it becomes beneficial

for all wineries involved. People may not travel an hour
from home to visit only one winery, but they would view
the trip as worthwhile if they had the opportunity to visit
four wineries. This clustering effect enhances the
attractiveness and profitability of all wineries involved.

Barriers to entry in the local wine market are high due to
capital investments, licensing, and knowledge
requirements. However, having competition close to a
business does not necessarily have a negative effect on
the bottom line. Therefore, some industries may actually
encourage and support new entrants up to a point.

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1. How would a new entrant
affect your business?

Further Assessment
Using a pencil and sheet of paper, examine in greater detail how the threat of new entrants might affect your business.

2. What will your competitors
do if there is a new entrant
into your marketplace?

3. How will you respond to a
new competitor?

Self Assessment—Threat of New Entrants
respond with “Yes” or “No” in the space provided. “Yes” indicates a favorable competitive environment for your business. “No” indicates

1. Do you have a unique process that has been
protected? For example, if you are a
technology-based company with patent
protection for your research investments, you
enjoy some barriers to entry.

2. Are customers loyal to your brand? If your
customers are loyal to your brand, a new
product, even if identical, would face a
formidable battle to win over loyal customers.

3. Are there high start-up costs for your
business? The greater the capital
requirements, the lower the threat of
new competition.

4. Are the assets needed to run your business
unique? Others will be more reluctant to
enter the market if the technology or
equipment cannot be converted into other
uses if the venture fails.




5. Is there a process or procedure critical to your
business? The more difficult it is to learn the
business, the greater the entry barrier.

6. Will a new competitor have difficulty
acquiring/obtaining needed inputs? Current
distribution channels may make it difficult
for a new business to acquire/obtain inputs
as readily as existing businesses.

7. Will a new competitor have any difficulty
acquiring/obtaining customers? If current
distribution channels make it difficult for a
new business to acquire/obtain new customers,
you will enjoy a barrier to entry.

8. Would it be difficult for a new entrant to have
enough resources to compete efficiently? For
every product, there is a cost-efficient level of
production. If challengers can’t achieve that
level of production, they won’t be competitive
and therefore won’t enter the industry.






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Threat of Substitutes

What Products Could Your
Customers Buy Instead of Yours?
Products from one business can be replaced by products from
another. If you produce a commodity product that is undiffer-
entiated, customers can easily switch away from your product
to a competitor’s product with few consequences. In contrast,
there may be a distinct penalty for switching if your product is
unique or essential for your customer’s business. Substitute
products are those that can fulfill a similar need to the one
your product fills.

As an example, a family restaurant may prefer to buy the
packaged poultry produced at your plant, but if given a better
deal, they may go to another poultry supplier. If you grow
free-range organically grown chickens, though, and you are
selling to upscale restaurants, they may have few substitutes
for the product that you are providing.

Substitutes Can Come in
Many Forms
Be aware that substitute products can come in many shapes
and sizes, and do not always come from traditional competi-
tors. Pork and chicken can substitute in consumer diets for
beef or lamb. Aluminum beverage cans battle in the market
against glass bottles and plastic containers. Cotton competes
with polyester from the petroleum industry. Barnes and Noble
retail bookstores compete with Internet retailer Amazon.
Postal services compete with e-mail and fax machines.

When developing a business plan, it is critical to assess the
other options your customers have to satisfy their needs. To do
this, look for products that serve the same function as yours. A
threat exists if there are alternative products with lower prices
or better performance or both.

How Substitutes Affect the
Substitutes essentially place a price ceiling on products.
Market analysts often talk about “wheat capping corn.” This
occurs because wheat and corn are substitutes in animal feed.

If wheat prices are low, corn prices will also be low, because,
as corn prices rise, livestock feeders will quickly shift to wheat
to keep ration costs low. This reduces the demand and
ultimately the price of corn.

It’s more difficult for a firm to try to raise prices and make
greater profits if there are close substitutes and switching costs
are low. But, in some cases, customers may be reluctant to
switch to another product even if it offers an advantage.
Customers may consider it inconvenient or even risky to change
if they are accustomed to using a certain product in a certain
way, or they are used to the way certain services are delivered.

Factors Affecting the Threat of
Substitutes are a greater threat when:

• Your product doesn’t offer any real benefit
compared to other products. What will hold your
customers if they can get an identical product from
your competitor?

• It is easy for customers to switch. A grocer can easily
switch from paper to plastic bags for its customers,
but a bottler may have to reconfigure its equipment
and retrain its workers if it switches from aluminum
cans to plastic bottles.

• Customers have little loyalty. When price is the
customer’s primary motivator, the threat of substitutes
is greater.

Reducing the Threat of Substitutes
You can reduce the threat of substitutes by using tactics such
as staying closely in tune with customer preferences and
differentiating your product by branding. In some cases, the
advertising required to differentiate is more than one firm can
bear. In that case, collective advertising for an industry may
be more effective.

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Perspective on Threat of Substitutes

In the wine business, there’s a common misconception.
When considering substitutes, many would make the easy
assumption that the substitute for wine is beer. There are
many other options that need to be considered, however.
In addition to selling an alcoholic beverage, a winery is a
destination, an entertainment and educational source,
and a part of world history and culture.

There’s a saying in the wine-making business, “Taste the
experience of Indiana wine”—taste the wine, taste the
events, taste the education, etc.

Due to the diversification of offerings in addition to wine,
substitutes must be carefully considered and evaluated.
Competing against the other travel destinations for
limited customer leisure time is one of the biggest

In order to decrease the threat of substitutes in the
market and encourage customers, managers of Indiana
wineries must carefully consider these alternatives and
strategically address all the other options facing a
prospective buyer.

Self Assessment—Threat of Substitutes
This is a short scorecard to help you assess your business’ position in your marketplace. Read each of the following questions and
respond with “Yes” or “No” in the space provided. “Yes” indicates a favorable competitive environment for your business. “No” indicates
a negative situation. Use the insight you gain to develop effective tactics for countering or taking advantage of the situation.

1. Does your product compare favorably to
possible substitutes? If another product offers
more features or benefits to customers, or if
their price is lower, customers may decide
that the other product is a better value.

2. Is it costly for your customers to switch to
another product? When customers experience
a loss of productivity if they switch to another
product, the threat of substitutes is weaker.



3. Are customers loyal to existing products?
Even if switching costs are low, customers
may have allegiance to a particular brand. If
your customers have high brand loyalty to
your product you enjoy a weak threat of


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Rivalry Among Competitors

How Intense Is Your Competition?
Competition is the foundation of the free enterprise system,
yet with small businesses even a little competition goes a long
way. Because companies in an industry are mutually depen-
dent, actions by one company usually invite competitive
retaliation. An analysis of rivalry looks at the extent to which
the value created in an industry will be dissipated through
head-to-head competition.

Intensity of Rivalry Among
Rivalry among competitors is often the strongest of the five
competitive forces, but can vary widely among industries. If
the competitive force is weak, companies may be able to raise
prices, provide less product for the price, and earn more
profits. If competition is intense, it may be necessary to
enhance product offerings to keep customers, and prices may
fall below break-even levels.

Rivalries can occur on various “playing fields.” In some
industries, rivalries are centered on price competition—
especially companies that sell commodities such as paper,

gasoline, or plywood. In other industries, competition may be
about offering customers the most attractive combination of
performance features, introducing new products, offering
more after-sale services or warranties, or creating a stronger
brand image than competitors. In some cases the presence of
more rivals can actually be a positive—for instance in a
shopping area, where attracting customers may hinge on having
enough stores and attractions to make it a worthwhile stop.

Factors Influencing Rivalry Among
The most intense rivalries occur when:

• One firm or a small number of firms have incentive to
try and become the market leader. In some cases, an
industry with two or three dominant firms may
experience intense rivalry when these firms are
battling to achieve market leader status. In other
situations, when competitors with diverse strategies
and relationships have different goals and the “rules
of the game” are not well established, rivalry will be
more intense.

• The market is growing slowly or shrinking. When the
potential to sell products is stagnant or declining,

List possible substitutes that your customers
could use in place of your product.

How easy would it be for your
customer to consider this alternative?

How can you differentiate your products or build
customer loyalty to manage the threat of substitutes?






Further Assessment
Using a pencil and sheet of paper, examine in greater detail how the threat of substitutes will affect your business.

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existing firms are unable to grow their market without
taking market away from competitors. In this
situation rivalry is more likely.

• There are high fixed costs of production. When a large
percentage of the cost to produce products is
independent of the number of units produced,
businesses are pressured to produce larger volumes.
This may tempt companies to drastically cut prices
when there is excess capacity in the industry in order
to sell greater volumes of product.

• Products are perishable and need to be sold quickly.
Sellers are more likely to price aggressively if they risk
losing inventory due to spoilage or if storage costs are

• Products are not unique or homogenous.
Undifferentiated products (commodities) compete
mainly on price, because consumers receive the same
value from the products of different firms. Because
firms do not experience any insulation from price
competition, there is more likely to be active rivalry.

Perspective on Rivalry Among Competitors

Head-to-head competition is rivalry. For a winery, the
various interactions with competition create a dynamic,
multifaceted situation. It boils down to “how does a
winery compete for business.” Porter’s argument is that
the more businesses compete on price, the lower the
profit of the market.

The Indiana wine industry is similar in scope to other
industries. There are a handful of large wineries with the
majority of market share and many smaller wineries
rounding out the industry. There are currently 31 wineries
in the state selling 1.8 million bottles of wine per year.
A small winery would sell approximately 7,500 bottles
per year.

On a global scope, the wine industry is very competitive.
Wineries compete for shelf space and “share of mouth”
with regard to consumer tastes. In the state, however,
competition at the local level is important to the
industry’s success. A small winery competes for customers

through the winery tasting room, rather than on the
external retail shelf. This means the winery competes
against all other tourism destinations in the state offering
similar entertainment, not just the other Indiana wineries.

As a result, the overall quality offered to customers is
very important. The first purchase is generally based on
the look of the wine package and customer service. To
retain these customers for the long-term, product quality
is essential. Future purchases are based on consumers’
perception of taste, not just how nice the bottle looks or
the friendliness of the staff. A winery manager needs to
offer a total package that goes above and beyond what
others in the state are offering.

The Indiana industry is not saturated at this point. There
is still room for wineries to grow without having to
capture customers from direct competitors. The demand
is growing, offering opportunities for industry growth
without extreme rivalry. However, staying ahead of the
game—the rivals—is the key for future success.

• Customers can easily switch between products. Intense
rivalry is likely when customers in a given industry
can easily switch to other suppliers. In these
situations, the businesses in the industry will be vying
for market share.

• There are high costs for exiting the business. If
liquidation would result in a loss, businesses that
invested heavily in their facilities will try hard to pay
for them and may resort to extreme methods of

Reducing the Threat of Rivals
Threats of rivals can be reduced by employing a variety of
tactics. To minimize price competition, distinguish your
product from your competitors’ by innovating or improving
features. Other tactics include focusing on a unique
segment of the market, distributing your product in a novel
channel, or trying to form stronger relationships and build
customer loyalty.

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Self Assessment—Rivalry Among Competitors
This is a short scorecard to help you assess your business’ position in your marketplace. Read each of the following questions and
respond with “Yes” or “No” in the space provided. “Yes” indicates a favorable competitive environment for your business. “No” indicates
a negative situation. Use the insight you gain to develop effective tactics for countering or taking advantage of the situation.

1. Is there a small number of competitors?
Often the greater the number of players, the
more intense the rivalry. However, rivalry can
occasionally be intense when one or more
firms are vying for market leader positions.

2. Is there a clear leader in your market? Rivalry
intensifies if companies have similar shares
of the market, leading to a struggle for
market leadership.

3. Is your market growing? In a growing
market, firms are able to grow revenues
simply because of the expanding market. In a
stagnant or declining market, companies
often fight intensely for a smaller and smaller

4. Do you have low fixed costs? With high fixed
costs, companies must sell more products to
cover these high costs.

5. Can you store your product to sell at the best
times? High storage costs or perishable
products result in a situation where firms
must sell product as soon as possible,
increasing rivalry among firms.



6. Are your competitors pursuing a low growth
strategy? You will have more intense rivalries
if your competitors are more aggressive. In
contrast, if your competitors are following a
strategy of milking profits in a mature
market, you will enjoy less rivalry.

7. Is your product unique? Firms that produce
products that are very similar will compete
mostly on price, so rivalry is expected to be

8. Is it easy for competitors to abandon their
product? If exit costs are high, a company
may remain in business even if it is not

9. Is it difficult for customers to switch between
your product and your competitors’? If
customers can easily switch, the market will
be more competitive and rivalry is expected to
be high as firms vie for each customer’s








15 Purdue Extension • Knowledge to Go

Final Comment
Not all of these forces are equally important when assessing
the overall attractiveness of an industry. In some industries, it
is easy to gain entry, but very difficult to get out. Not surpris-
ingly, these industries tend to be mediocre investments.

A full-fledged industry analysis would require extensive
research, talking with customers, suppliers, competitors,

and industry experts. However, as a general overview, the
five forces concept provides entrepreneurs with an excellent
tool to examine the profit potential in a particular industry.
Gaining an understanding of the way in which each of the
five forces influences your profitability will provide you with
tactics for countering the strength of the forces.

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Further Assessment
Using a pencil and sheet of paper, examine in greater detail how rivalry among competitors affects your business.

What business and growth
strategies does this competitor use?

How will this competitor affect
your business?

What actions will you take in response
to your competitors’ actions?









List your major competitors.

16 Purdue Extension • Knowledge to Go


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