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Purchasing behaviour and supplier base evolution – a longitudinal case study

Anna Dubois (Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Lars-Erik Gadde (Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden)
Lars-Gunnar Mattsson (Department of Marketing and Strategy, Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 18 January 2021

Issue publication date: 25 May 2021

370

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the paper is to describe and analyse the evolution of the supplier base of a buying firm and the reasons behind these changes.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on a case study of the changes over 52 years in a sub-set of the supplier base of a firm manufacturing fork-lifts.

Findings

The study shows that some relationships feature substantial longevity. However, the duration of one-third of the total relationships is shorter than five years. There was considerable variation over time in the dynamics of the supplier base in terms of entries and exits of suppliers. Owing to this variation, research findings and conclusions in short-term studies are heavily dependent on the specific conditions at the time of the study. Finally, no less than one-fourth of the terminated supplier relationships were reactivated later.

Research limitations/implications

The study was designed in a time when purchasing was considered entirely from the perspective of the buying firm. Further studies, therefore, must increasingly emphasise the role of suppliers and the interaction in the buyer–supplier relationships, as well as the embeddedness in networks.

Originality/value

The findings of the study are unique in two ways. First, they are based on systematic observations over more than 50 years. Second, the study involves the purchases of 11 components representing different technical and economic features. The (few) previous studies are based on much shorter time periods and involves fewer suppliers/components. Moreover, the findings regarding re-activation of terminated relationships represent unique contributions.

Keywords

Citation

Dubois, A., Gadde, L.-E. and Mattsson, L.-G. (2021), "Purchasing behaviour and supplier base evolution – a longitudinal case study", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 689-705. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-11-2018-0328

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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