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Enablers and inhibitors to horizontal collaboration between competitors: an investigation in UK retail supply chains

By Charles Stephens


Over the last half-century, the development of physical distribution management has led to the establishment of logistics, which itself has developed into one of the key components of supply chain management. As different models of competition have developed in parallel, so the concept of competition between supply chains, as opposed to between firms, has been described. These two trends are striking in the context of UK grocery retailing. This market sector is described as at the leading edge of innovation and is arguably among the most efficient in the one world. The speed and efficiency of these retail supply chains has underpinned customer offerings of range and freshness and has contributed to the growth of supermarket chains and thus the concentration of retail power in the UK grocery market. These trends then raise two issues. Innovation in logistics and distribution management appears to be easy to copy and thus goods ideas tend to be adopted by competitors and best practise is quickly and uniformly applied. Competitive advantage is, therefore, short term only. Secondly, new organisational paradigms, such as the extended or virtual enterprise, support the concept of competition between vertically integrated supply chains. However, it is not necessarily the case that all elements of the supply chain must be in competition. Whilst range, branding and procurement policies may continue to offer competitive advantage over time, the logistics elements of the supply chain might afford an opportunity for collaboration between competing supply chains, as these elements contribute no long term advantage to individual firms. New models for corporate strategy argue that collaboration between competitors is not only possible but desirable in certain areas of operations and under certain circumstances. Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) offers a set of tools for exploring potential areas of collaboration in the retail and grocery markets. However, in spite of collaboration in other areas and predictions by authors of collaboration in logistics operations, there is little evidence of applications in practise. This research set out to explore why this might be so. Research in the UK grocery market led to the proposition of a series of enablers and inhibitors for horizontal logistics collaborations, which were then tested in two other UK retail contexts

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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