The paper examines the current state of relationship marketing in the consumer services market. It questions whether relationships are mutually beneficial to suppliers and customers and argues that the relationship is managed by the retailer primarily for their gain whereas the customer might benefit more from alternative, immediate rewards. This leads to a consideration of how value and equity within relationship marketing might be viewed using social psychology as a basis for re‐examining the nature of supplier‐customer relationships. Concepts from branding and brand repertoires are also considered in terms of understanding what type of relationship might be most appropriate for consumers. Two case studies are explored to support the suggestion that some consumers are looking for different types of relationship to those currently on offer. Management must consider carefully what this might imply both in terms of future consumer behaviour and how competitive action between retailers may develop.
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