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Journal cover: International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Online from: 1973

Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management

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Power imbalanced relationships: cases from UK fresh food supply

Document Information:
Title:Power imbalanced relationships: cases from UK fresh food supply
Author(s):Martin K. Hingley, (Department of Business Management and Marketing, Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire, UK)
Citation:Martin K. Hingley, (2005) "Power imbalanced relationships: cases from UK fresh food supply", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 33 Iss: 8, pp.551 - 569
Keywords:Buyer-seller relationships, Food industry, Management power, Retailers
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/09590550510608368 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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.

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