International Distribution: A Cross-Cultural Reading of Intermediation

International Distribution: A Cross-Cultural Reading of Intermediation

François Cassière (Clermont Auvergne University, France) and Virginie Noireaux (Clermont Auvergne University, France)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2133-4.ch013
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The international aspect of distribution is marked by a significant idiosyncrasy linked to market sizes, distributors, business placement, the maturity of targeted markets, and additionally, to the cultural proximity of the individuals and groups involved. Behind these economic, financial, cultural, or managerial considerations lies a rather dense web. As a natural leader of this system, the distributor plays a crucial role in the future of the architecture of the supply-chain structure. Founded on leadership, the strategy of the distributor becomes more malleable when presented in another cultural context. This chapter presents a study of the relational and managerial interweaving between the supply-chain stakeholders under the locus of leadership. In particular, it examines the efforts required by the involved individuals and groups, as well as intermediaries, to encourage lasting connections in the supply chain, be it intermediated or not.
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An increasing number of enterprises are seeking to expand their markets internationally. Over the course of this expansion, questions arise as to the modes of operation that lead to a successful implantation in new countries. In all cases, the internationalization of the distributors results in the expansion of new supply chains, the complexity of which depends on the degree of development in the targeted country. The research of partners and the distribution of tasks is the responsibility of the leader. According to behavioral theories, the leader’s role is to create a structure of control and coordination in the relationships between members, and to maintain these relationships by exercising its power (Mallen, 1963). This power permits it to make the key decisions related to the proper functioning of the chain, defining its principal objectives and distributing its responsibilities. In the context of internationalization, the leader must exercise its power through several individuals or groups, producers and logisticians, capable of integrating the supply chain to guarantee the success of its strategy. The specific context of internationalization renders the construction of the chain complex. Indeed, the cultural aspect of the intended country impacts on the practices of management of these enterprises. For Dupuis and Prime (1996:32) culture represents

a system of implicit… and explicit [practices]…, which is learned, shared in a dynamic way and which defines the frame of reference and the way of doing things in the manner of those involved in the system of distribution.

The sum of these practices impacts upon the totality of the levels of the supply chain, as well as upon organizational and interpersonal aspects, and refers back to the need for integration in the supply chain (Cooper et al., 1997) which falls under the leader’s jurisdiction. The distributor, on the consumer market, represents an intermediate player who buys from suppliers to sell to buyers in defining the terms of the transactions, managing payments, records and inventories to ensure the availability of goods and cash (Spulber, 1999).

Today, nearly all large distributors today are internationalized to varying degrees of geographical spread, with distance between headquarters and branches. To fully understand the internationalization of the Carrefour group in Belgium since 1969, especially in the late 1980s in numerous countries (Mexico, Austria, Germany, Japan, India, etc.), one must acknowledge its several failings during its international development (Durand, 2011). In particular, the group withdrew from the Japanese (2005), Thai (2010), Mexican (2005), and Portuguese (2008) markets. In the same situation is its competitor, Walmart, which left Germany in 2006 and which is about to abandon the Japanese market today. The literature regarding the motivations and methods of internationalization, or the determining economic and institutional factors of success related to its branches (Durand, 2011), is significant, though it must be noted that few works deal with the process of relational formation in the supply chain (Coyle et al., 2003; Durand, 2011). However, understanding these forces experienced by the distributor’s process of constructing a supply chain is a complex challenge, especially in an international context. Indeed, in this context, the distributor does not always master the networks of intermediaries, nor their strategic and logistical considerations, translated into their culture. However, these considerations will lead distributors to adopt diverse strategies in their relationships with third parties, and thus to favor certain sources of power to make these relationships durable Taking the cultural dimension into consideration, the position of the distributor in this system forces it to develop multiple facets of leadership to understand, master, optimize, and diffuse the best practices, regardless of whether the intermediaries support this process. In this sense, the distributor’s position in the system of distribution can be analyzed and discussed in light of power relations (Stern, 1969; Little, 1970), which can bring elements of comprehension to the success (or the failure) of the distributors’ strategies of internationalization.

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