Role Changes in Distribution Networks: A Study of Middlemen
Licentiate thesis, 2017
This licentiate thesis deals with re-orientation of the role of firms identified as ‘middlemen in distribution channels’. Evolving conditions in the business context of these firms have challenged their traditional role. On this basis, two aims with the thesis are formulated: (i) to identify adequate roles for middlemen in the current business context, and (ii) to analyse the implications for implementation of these roles.
The study is based on the industrial network approach with particular focus on the three layers of the ARA-model: activities, resources, and actors. In the analytical framework central issues related to distribution are identified in each of the layer, resulting in the formulation of the research issues of the study.
The empirical study is focused on a case study of a middleman involved in distribution of mobile phones and six of its business partners – one manufacturer of mobile phones, two network operators and three retailers. These five business partners were selected because each of them represents a particular role in the role-set of the distributor. The business relationships with the partners are described and analysed with regard to the central elements derived in the analytical framework.
The roles identified in the empirical study provide the basis for the formulation of four generic roles – two related to the activity layer and two related to the resource layer. Finally, the consequences for the actor layer are discussed. The paper concludes that although middlemen are challenged there are ample opportunities for survival through re-orientation of the traditional middleman role.
Room 2456, Korsvägen, Vasa Campus, Chalmers
Opponent: Professor Håkan Håkansson, BI Norwegian Business School , Oslo