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Resistance strategies in distribution channels: a view from the French book trade

Carole Poirel (CRET-LOG, Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence, France)
Gilles Paché (CRET-LOG, Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence, France)

Society and Business Review

ISSN: 1746-5680

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




This paper aims to focus on resistance strategies in distribution channels. The concept of resistance has received much attention in organization theory, but it has been rather neglected in corporate strategy. Only a few works dedicated to distribution channels explicitly use the notion of resistance strategy. These works provide a view of resistance as an inter-organizational phenomenon between companies (i.e. buyers and suppliers) but limit resistance strategies to merely confrontation strategies between channel members. This paper studies resistance strategies in a more open perspective considering that resistance can coexist with collaborative relationships, as part of a specific societal reality.


To capture the deep variety of resistance strategies, from the most active to the most passive, a qualitative research was carried out in France in the context of the book trade, based on 15 semi-structured interviews. The discourse analysis provides insights into the social reality of an organization and also the reality of changes in inter-organizational relationships. The interviews were conducted with 15 different companies representing a significant share of the French market.


The paper shows that channel members successfully develop resistance strategies of logistical nature, based on the efficient monitoring of flows, both inside the company (logistics rationalization) and within the supply chain (control of interfaces). Channel members who implement a logistics rationalization and a control of interfaces succeed not only in containing the power of their powerful partners but also in benefitting from new sources of profitability and improvement of customer service.


The French book trade is an illustration of the role played by logistical aspects in the power exercised by a supplier and resistance strategies that buyers develop in response as part of buyer-supplier relationships. Indeed, it is because they have a strong logistical expertise that dominant actors are capable, step by step, to place dominated actors in a situation of strong dependency, by using for that purpose their logistical means. In turn, dominated actors seek to develop logistical responses to rebalance the buyer-supplier relationships in their favor.



The authors would like to thank Professor Hans Hasselbladh and Professor Yvon Pesqueux for their insightful comments on the first version of the paper, as these comments led us to a significant improvement of the work.


Poirel, C. and Paché, G. (2017), "Resistance strategies in distribution channels: a view from the French book trade", Society and Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 152-174.



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