Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore supplier integration in the assortment management of builders’ merchants (BMs) by identifying potential factors enabling supplier integration and potential factors mediating the success of supplier integration.
Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative case study method was used, in which interviews and participative observations were conducted with a timber supplier and BMs in the UK.
Findings – The likelihood that a supplier and a retailer will implement supplier integration is positively affected by the retailer’s format as a large chain with several product categories represented in its stores and the retailer’s trust in the supplier. Effectiveness and efficiency of supplier integration is mediated by the number of different retail formats represented by the retailers, the ability of the supplier to determine cost drivers in its operations and a homogeneous market, meaning that local circumstances have limited effect on demand.
Research limitations/implications – The findings are exploratory and further testing of the propositions, using a wider empirical sample, is required. The paper extends theories relating to resource complementarity and suggests that a resource complementarity framework can be applied in relationships other than alliances.
Practical implications – This paper suggests when incorporation of supplier resources is possible to implement and when it is likely to succeed.
Originality/value – This paper uses a contingency perspective to explore supplier integration and targets individual buyer-supplier relationships. It uses a dyadic perspective and considers how supplier integration affects the dyad, rather than only the buyer.
Supplier integration in category management means that a supplier takes part in the activities that are traditionally performed by retailers. These activities are the selection of which products to sell, decisions on how to price and market the products, and making sure that the products are delivered to the stores in a timely manner. Depending on the situation, an integration of suppliers in these activities can be more or less suitable.
As more research is needed to understand when supplier integration in category management is suitable, the purpose of this thesis is to describe and analyze how situational factors affect the relationship consequences of supplier integration in category management. Specifically, the relationship consequences are expressed in terms of relationship performance and interdependence between the firms.
The study builds on empirical data about British and Swedish builders’ merchants and their suppliers, with a particular focus on timber suppliers. Data has mainly been collected through participative observations and interviews.
Five situational factors that improve the relationship performance of supplier integration in category management are identified: large retailer firms, supplier product knowledge, homogeneity of market demands for the supplier’s products, mutual trust and a shared view on customer value between the supplier and retailer. Three situational factors are identified that affect the interdependence between the retailer and the supplier when supplier integration in category management is implemented: supplier product knowledge, whether the supplier or the retailer initiates the integration and whether coercive or non-coercive power has to be used in the implementation.
This thesis contributes to retail literature by highlighting the need to include situational factors in the analysis of supplier integration, clarifying which activities are comprised by category management and suggesting a theoretical foundation based on the resource-based view and the transaction cost framework to analyse relationship performance in retailer-supplier dyads. When making decisions on integration, managers of retailers and their suppliers are advised to consider the fit with their overall strategy, the fit with the surrounding situation and the effects both in terms of interdependence and relationship performance.