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In: Business and Management

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THE CHANGING ROLE OF MIDDLEMEN
- STRATEGIC RESPONSES TO DISTRIBUTION DYNAMICS

Robert Olsson robert.olsson@chalmers.se Sweden Chalmers University of Technology
Lars-Erik Gadde lars-erik.gadde@chalmers.se Sweden Chalmers University of Technology
Kajsa Hulthén kajsa.hulthen@chalmers.se Sweden Chalmers University of Technology
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ABSTRACT
This paper deals with changing roles of so called middlemen. In today’s business reality, there is a clear shift in the orientation of middlemen, from ‘only’facilitating the sale of produced goods, to identifying customer needs and sourcing to create solutions that match these needs.This paper aims to explore the changing roles of middlemen.The analytical framework takes its point of departure in the Industrial Network Approach. The study of roles focuses on operations and skills with regard to the activity and resource layers. For the actor layer significant issues concern the nature of the middleman’s relationship with other actors and its position in the network. These aspects are central for the value-generating capacity of the middleman.
The paper relies on a case study of an actor (a middleman), Mobile Inc., involved in providing ‘Wireless equipment’ with a focus on mobile phone solutions.The main conclusion of the empirical study is that numerous opportunities are open for identification of roles for middlemen in the current distribution landscape. From being a typical ‘traditional’ middleman, Mobile Inc. evolved into a multidimensional actor featuring quite diverse conditions in relation to its business partners. These roles are: assortment provider, logistics service provider, purchasing coordinator, end-customer interface, marketing organizer, and product developer. Each of them requires its particular capabilities and skills. With regard to the network layers, it is clear that…...

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