Retail and Globalization the Governance of Global Value Chains by German Retailers


Retailing and Globalization

An increasingly large number of products sold by retailers today not only clothing and textile products, shoes and toys but also furniture, household goods, electrical appliances, home improvement supplies, fruits, vegetables and many other consumer goods are produced in developing and transition countries.
Retail trade groups as well as brand companies themselves are now sourcing an increasing number of products. This trend can be attributed to various restructuring processes in the retail industry: the formation of increasingly large business groups through mergers, the vertical integration of wholesale and retail trade, the increasing importance of private labels, lean retailing and efficient consumer response.
The scope of this project is to elucidate the following questions:

  • How is the changing landscape of the German retail industry connected to the development of global value chains?
  • How do retail and brand companies influence the structure of global value chains?


Theoretical Concepts

Buyer-driven chains, that is, global value chains in which retailers or brand companies without their own production facilities are critical players, will be a central focus of theoretical consideration.
First, we study the configuration of these chains by investigating which types of companies are involved and how do they divide the work between them. In addition to studying retailers, brand companies and manufacturers, we also investigate the role of importers, agents and other intermediaries who organize cross-national production on behalf of German importers.
Secondly, we scrutinize the coordination, or governance, of global value chains. Specifically, we attempt to determine which factor tends to have the greatest formative influence on the relationships between the market actors: the market itself or central players exerting more or less hierarchical control.
This research project aims to make both empirical and theoretical contributions to the discussion on global value chains, international division of labor, and corporate social responsibility.


Research Steps

Empirical research will be conducted in four phases.

  1. Within the scope of a detailed statistical analysis, we will quantify the German export of consumer goods from developing and transition countries while identifying growth sectors.
  2. In phase II, material research and interviews with experts (representatives of businesses and business associations) will be conducted to generate the data needed to analyze the basic structures of value chains.
  3. In phase III, exploratory field research will be conducted in the main countries of origin - Poland, Turkey and China (Hong Kong/Guang Dong) to generate complementary data from the perspective of the exporters.
  4. In the final phase, information on typical governance structures of global value chains will be obtained by interviewing experts from selected companies.
Main content

Selected Publications

Wortmann, Michael (2005): Globalisation of the German Apparel Value Chain: Retailers, Manufacturers and Agents. Paper for the Conference 'Organisational Configurations and Locational Choices of Firms: Responses to Globalisation in Different Industry and Institutional Environments.' Organised by the Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge/UK, 14-15 April 2005
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Blöcker, Antje/Wortmann, Michael (2005): Edelmarken und Schnäppchen. Gewinner und Verlierer im Bekleidungshandel, in: WZB Mitteilungen Nr. 107, March 2005, S. 43-45

Blöcker, Antje/Wortmann, Michael (2005): Strukturwandel und internationale Beschaffung im Einzelhandel mit Bekleidung, in: Prokla Nr. 138, March 2005, S. 91-109

Wortmann, Michael (2004): Aldi and the German Model: Structural Change in German Grocery Retailing and the Success of Grocery Discounters, in: Competition & Change, Vol. 8, No. 4, S. 425-441, December 2004.

Wortmann, Michael (2003): Structural Change and Globalisation of the German Retail Industry. WZB Discussion Paper SP III 2003-202b, Berlin (available also in German: SP III 2003-202a).
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