Managing Buyer-Supplier Relationships: Empirical Patterns of Strategy Formulation in Industrial Purchasing

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In this paper, we investigate how industrial buyers align their relationships with suppliers to the contextual characteristics of the purchase. We propose that patterns of purchasing strategy are evidenced, in part, by the alignment of three fundamental domains: the firm's strategic intent for a given purchase, the environment in which a purchase is made, and the type of relationship adopted by industrial buying firms with their selected suppliers. Using a cluster analysis on data collected from 226 buyers in a sample of U.S. industrial firms, we identified four primary types of purchases. Our results provide a partial empirical validation of the purchasing types presented in purchasing portfolio models. However, we identify a fourth type, the adversarial purchase, which cannot be mapped to existing portfolio models. We also found evidence that the dimensions of portfolio models may not be as independent as commonly assumed. We discuss the implications of our findings for practitioners and for research.