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Postponement and logistics flexibility in retailing: A multiple case study from Sweden
Jönköping University, School of Engineering, JTH, Industrial Engineering and Management.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7330-6500
Stockholm School of Economics.
Jönköping University, School of Engineering, JTH, Industrial Engineering and Management.
2016 (English)In: Industrial management + data systems, ISSN 0263-5577, E-ISSN 1758-5783, Vol. 116, no 3, 445-465 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how postponement is applied in retailing and how such application is connected to logistics flexibility.

Design/methodology/approach – An overview of the established typological classifications of postponement and logistics flexibility is presented followed by empirical results from three case studies of retailers of electronics, furniture, and grocery in Sweden. The study relies on primary qualitative data gathered on the retailers as well as secondary material on some suppliers including logistics providers for further insight.

Findings – The results of the study show that retailers have different practices when it comes to postponement and speculation; however, there is a growing tendency toward postponement among retailers by exploring new means of applying postponement. The results reveal that retailers that have higher application of postponement seem to be more flexible in their logistics operations.

Research limitations/implications – The paper provides direction for further empirical research of the topic, by indicating the application of postponement is not constrained to the point of purchase and could be extended by involving consumers as well as capitalizing on suppliers’ competences and capabilities. Especially, sales services, software, and upgrades could provide opportunity for further expanding the concept.

Originality/value – The paper contributes to the existing literature on logistics practices of postponement and speculation, as well as logistics flexibility by focussing on retail firms in Sweden. Most of the prior scholarly work on postponement and flexibility is on the manufacturing context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 116, no 3, 445-465 p.
Keyword [en]
Sweden, Retailing, Postponement, Logistics flexibility
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-25689DOI: 10.1108/IMDS-06-2015-0257OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-25689DiVA: diva2:781193
Funder
Swedish Retail and Wholesale Development Council
Available from: 2015-01-15 Created: 2015-01-15 Last updated: 2016-03-31Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Postponement and Logistics Flexibility in Retailing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Postponement and Logistics Flexibility in Retailing
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation addresses several general logistics problems in retailing regarding meeting a variety of customer demand and availability, efficiency and effectiveness in carrying inventory, and increased logistics flexibility. It builds upon the well-established supply chain principle of postponement, and argues for the benefits associated with it in tackling certain logistics challenges. Classically, most of the scholarly contributions in logistics and supply chain management in relation to postponement and logistics flexibility deal with manufacturing firms. This thesis contributes to the current literature by studying the concepts in a retail context. It shows the contemporary application of postponement, and the potential benefits associated with it. It could serve as a hint for retail decision-makers on prioritizing certain logistics decisions regarding their desired performance.

The thesis aims to explore the application of postponement and logistics flexibility in retailing, and to investigate the resulting firm performance. It consists of a cover and a compilation of six articles, which serve to address three research questions. The thesis has a mixed methods design and consists of two empirical strands. The first two articles report two individually carried out systematic literature reviews on postponement and logistics flexibility, which serve as building blocks for the empirical strands. The first Strand, which consists of two empirical articles, includes qualitative case studies dealing with exploring how postponement is applied in retailing, seeking connections to logistics flexibility. Qualitative data is collected via a myriad of sources and tools. In Paper 3, data is collected on Media Markt, Jysk, and Lidl via interviews, and site visits, as well as from secondary sources on other supply chain actors, including service providers and product suppliers. Paper 4, explores a manifestation of postponement – customization – in upscale bicycle retailing in the nexus of retailers and consumers. It is built on qualitative data collected via interviews and netnography. The second Strand consists of two quantitative articles based on a cross-sectional survey of retailers in Sweden. Paper 5, which is of exploratory nature, deals with simplifying the complexities associated with logistics practices of retailers, and intends to provide a taxonomy of logistics configurations resulting from postponement and logistics flexibility. It also studies the performance differences of the identified groups of retailers. Finally, Paper 6 uses Structural Equation Modelling to explain the impact of postponement on logistics flexibility and well as that of the latter on firm performance. Also, the logistics flexibility-performance relationship is examined in the presence of uncertainty contingencies and logistics integration. Papers 5 and 6 use both strategic and financial measures of performance from subjective self-reported, as well as objective secondary sources.

The results of the thesis show that postponement is gaining increased attention among scholars and practitioners. There is an expanding tendency towards involving other supply chain actors, including logistics service providers and especially consumers, in postponement activities. The case studies point to the different approaches to logistics flexibility and varied performance of retailers. The taxonomy study based on the configuration approach in Paper 5 is an attempt to tackle the complexity in understanding the logistics practices of retailers. Three groups of retailers were identified regarding their logistics configurations based on postponement and logistics flexibility, labeled as Rigid, Speculative, and Responsive. These groups were compared in relation to their financial and strategic performance, and it was shown that if speculation and logistics flexibility are high, then financial performance would be generally higher. If postponement and logistics flexibility are high, then strategic performance would be higher. Also, the thesis provides empirical support for the role of postponement in increased logistics flexibility in retailing. Also, higher logistics flexibility was proven to be associated with higher strategic firm performance. The impact of logistics flexibility on firm performance was shown to be moderated by uncertainty as well as by logistics integrations. As a result, performance is higher when both logistics flexibility and uncertainty are higher or lower. However, logistics integration proved to have contrasting positive and negative moderating roles when considering strategic and financial performance respectively, which could be traced back to the potentially high monetary engagement connected to logistics integration. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Jönköping: Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School, 2014. 338 p.
Series
JIBS Dissertation Series, ISSN 1403-0470 ; 100
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-25690 (URN)978-91-86345-55-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-12-11, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Increasing Flexibility in Supply Chains through Postponement
Funder
Swedish Retail and Wholesale Development Council
Available from: 2015-01-20 Created: 2015-01-15 Last updated: 2016-10-13Bibliographically approved

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