The ‘T-Shaped Buyer’: a transactional perspective on supply chain relationships

Alan Aitken, Robert A. Paton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    162 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper challenges the normative view of interdependent buyer-seller relationships and provides a more holistic perspective of the contextual reality that shapes buyer behaviour. By proposing an innovative qualitative methodology, which focusses on boundary-spanning, pre-sales interactions, the research penetrates complex and commercially sensitive buyer-seller relationships. The longitudinal research design uses web-based diaries and follow-up interviews to explore conditions of power based interdependence between buyers and sellers. The ensuing data is mapped using qualitative content analysis and the results are aggregated graphically for assessment. Using this approach the study develops a nuanced view of the dominant patterns of buyer behaviour, and challenges the opinion that a search for competitive advantage will strengthen cooperative relationships in conditions of power based interdependence. The paper introduces the metaphor of the 'T-Shaped Buyer' to explain the empirical findings and, while acknowledging the contextual limits of the study, suggests that this metaphor may cause both academics and practitioners to reflect on normative thinking.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)280-289
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Purchasing and Supply Management
    Issue number4
    Early online date10 Mar 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • ‘T-Shaped Buyer’
    • supplier relationships
    • buyer behaviours
    • power interdependence


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