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Lean is one of the most pervasive and powerful paradigms in Operations and Supply Chain Management. As a theory, lean has been well tested in manufacturing. Lean in retail has received less attention. There is good reason to think that seminal constructs from lean, such as inventory slack reduction and capacity slack reduction, may explain a great deal of the variance in retail firm performance. Therefore this paper tests lean-based propositions pertaining to the relationships between inventory slack, capacity slack, market instability and firm market performance. Using retail firm data from a 35 year period, we find that lean thinking in its basic unadorned form helps explain retail performance remarkably well. From both a snapshot and quarterly difference perspective and regardless of whether we look at capacity slack or inventory slack, lean produces superior, lasting returns for retailers.

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This is an author-produced, peer-reviewed version of this article. © 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives 4.0 License. The final, definitive version of this document can be found online at International Journal of Production Economics, doi: 10.1016/j.ijpe.2018.01.006

Available for download on Monday, March 01, 2021