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.
Jönköping: Jönköping University, Jönköping International Business School , 2014. , 338 p.
Hertz, Susanne, ProfessorHultman, Jens, Associate ProfessorNyberg, Anna, Assistant Professor