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Justice in UK supermarket buyer‐supplier relationships: an empirical analysis

Andrew Fearne (Centre for Supply Chain Research, Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)
Rachel Duffy (Centre for Supply Chain Research, Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)
Susan Hornibrook (Centre for Supply Chain Research, Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 1 August 2005

Abstract

Purpose

To explore the nature and scope of good and bad practice in the relationships that UK supermarkets have with their suppliers of own‐label products in the main commodity sectors (meat, dairy, fresh produce).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents the results of a postal survey of supermarket suppliers, which formed part of a wider study of corporate social responsibility in UK supermarket supply chains.

Findings

The results demonstrate the heterogeneity in relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers of own‐label products in the main commodity sectors the extent to which retail and supply chain strategy is likely to influence the way in which supermarkets deal with suppliers. Best practice was most evident in the two supermarket supply chains where supply base rationalisation has virtually ceased and the adoption of lead suppliers and sole suppliers has been most evident in recent years.

Research limitations/implications

Postal survey limited to suppliers in three commodity sectors, where buyer power is greatest. Would expect different results for relationships with branded suppliers.

Practical implications

With supermarkets coming under increasing scrutiny over the way they treat suppliers, the conceptual framework and survey instrument represent a mechanism for independent assessment of supply chain relationships in sensitive markets, which could be used constructively to encourage the more widespread adoption of good practice and the elimination of bad practice in supermarket relationships.

Originality/value

This paper presents the results of the first attempt anywhere to empirically measure fairness in relationships between supermarkets and their suppliers. Further research is necessary but the results of our early work are extremely encouraging.

Keywords

Citation

Fearne, A., Duffy, R. and Hornibrook, S. (2005), "Justice in UK supermarket buyer‐supplier relationships: an empirical analysis", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 570-582. https://doi.org/10.1108/09590550510608377

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited