Purpose: This study aims to identify the types of relationships that intermediaries form with their suppliers and customers in the apparel supply chain and their implications for performance. Design/methodology/approach: Cluster analysis was conducted on the supplier and customer relationships of 90 trade intermediaries in the apparel industry. Findings: Three configurations were identified: moderately dependent relationships with suppliers and customers and moderate flexibility upstream; highly dependent relationships with suppliers and customers but low flexibility upstream; and relationships with suppliers and customers that are low in dependence. Performance of firms using these configurations differed. Firms that cultivated some dependence upstream and downstream performed best. Firms with highly dependent relationships with suppliers and customers but low flexibility upstream performed almost as well. This group was highly skilled in relationship management. Firms that maintained low dependence with suppliers and customers performed the worst. Research limitations/implications: Findings were based on a limited sample of 90 firms. Relationship configurations may differ in other industries, e.g. car industry. Practical implications: For a supply chain to be effective, firms need to consider how they structure the relationships along the supply chain to facilitate the flow of information, goods and resources. Originality/value: Prior research has considered relationships as independent dyads. This study looks at tripartite relationships involving suppliers and customers in the supply chain.
- Buyer-seller relationships
- Performance management
- Supply chain management
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business and International Management