Power imbalanced relationships: cases from UK fresh food supply

Hingley, Martin (2005) Power imbalanced relationships: cases from UK fresh food supply. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33 (8). pp. 551-569. ISSN 0959-0552

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Abstract

Purpose – This study investigates the issue of power in business-to-business relationships and
constitutes an appraisal of the theory relating to issues of supply chain relationships; in which the
received view from the relationship marketing literature with its emphasis on trust, dyadic symmetry
and mutuality is questioned. It is contended, alternatively that other types of relationships, for
example, those based on selfishness are equally relevant; and that power imbalanced business
relationships are just as important to the understanding of business exchange.
Design/methodology/approach – Specific reference is made to power relationships in vertical food
supply channels in the UK, where the majority of control lies in the hands of large multiple retailers.
The paper cites case material drawn from studies into the relationships between UK-based fresh food
supplier organisations and their principal customers, the leading UK food retailers.
Findings – Specific outcomes are determined with regard to issues of power, mutuality and the
nature of power-dependent relationships. Power play is omnipresent in exchange relationships and is
not always seen in a negative light. Relationship-building is perfectly possible in asymmetric
relationships and weaker parties are tolerant of power imbalance.
Research limitations/implications – The study concludes that power should be a central
consideration when concerned with business relationships and that imbalances in power are no
specific barrier to parties entering into relationships or to their success.
Practical implications – Findings from chosen case studies are transferable to other vertical
channel circumstances. Any future investigation should consider the expression and limits of power
and the boundaries of tolerance to power imbalance.
Originality/value – Provides evidence of the nature of power-dependent business relationships.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Purpose – This study investigates the issue of power in business-to-business relationships and constitutes an appraisal of the theory relating to issues of supply chain relationships; in which the received view from the relationship marketing literature with its emphasis on trust, dyadic symmetry and mutuality is questioned. It is contended, alternatively that other types of relationships, for example, those based on selfishness are equally relevant; and that power imbalanced business relationships are just as important to the understanding of business exchange. Design/methodology/approach – Specific reference is made to power relationships in vertical food supply channels in the UK, where the majority of control lies in the hands of large multiple retailers. The paper cites case material drawn from studies into the relationships between UK-based fresh food supplier organisations and their principal customers, the leading UK food retailers. Findings – Specific outcomes are determined with regard to issues of power, mutuality and the nature of power-dependent relationships. Power play is omnipresent in exchange relationships and is not always seen in a negative light. Relationship-building is perfectly possible in asymmetric relationships and weaker parties are tolerant of power imbalance. Research limitations/implications – The study concludes that power should be a central consideration when concerned with business relationships and that imbalances in power are no specific barrier to parties entering into relationships or to their success. Practical implications – Findings from chosen case studies are transferable to other vertical channel circumstances. Any future investigation should consider the expression and limits of power and the boundaries of tolerance to power imbalance. Originality/value – Provides evidence of the nature of power-dependent business relationships.
Keywords:Food industry, Retailers, Buyer-seller relationships, Management power
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D600 Food and Beverage studies
N Business and Administrative studies > N240 Retail Management
N Business and Administrative studies > N200 Management studies
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Business School
ID Code:4402
Deposited By: Martin Hingley
Deposited On:12 Apr 2011 12:25
Last Modified:18 Jul 2011 16:41

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