Sunday, 1 January 2017

Another misreading of relative power in buyer/supplier negotiations

Once more we learn of what looks like another misreading of relative power in buyer/supplier relationships; this time M&S.

There's no need to retell the whole story which was published in today's Sunday Times, but it appears M&S, by pursing a responsible sourcing strategy, reduced its potential supply base and therefore ease of switching suppliers. Then, in response to the weakening exchange rate following the Brexit vote, refused to work with suppliers in addressing their cost increases, but instead said they were going to consolidate the supply base, therefore exerting power over suppliers yet reducing suppliers long-term 'skin in the game'. Then, facing potential loss of supplies (relative supplier power) have now had to backtrack on their earlier assertion and accept supplier price rises.

Not only has M&S lost face in this foray they have needlessly sacrificed supplier goodwill and trust, and quite possibly lost credibility in their narrow interpretation of responsible sourcing.

I do not understand why procurement strategists appear to spend insufficient time thinking through potential scenarios and likely supplier responses; they would benefit a lot from game theory by considering "how might our suppliers respond". M&S don't seem to have thought through potential outcomes prior to pursuing any of the above approaches.  'Power' appears to be viewed solely as one-way and risks dismissed.

As we start 2017 I doubt this will be the only example of misreading power in buyer/supplier relationships - why is that; why are we so poor at learning lessons for others?

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