Deep, Sticky, Transient, and Gracious: An Expanded Buyer-Supplier Relationship Typology

Yusoon Kim, Thomas Choi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The cooperative-adversarial dichotomy has served as the prevailing buyer-supplier relationship typology in the literature. Cooperative buyer-supplier relationships have been associated with closely tied relationships, while adversarial relationships have been equated to arms-length relationships. We propose, however, that this perspective is overly simplified; a cooperative relationship is orthogonal to a closely tied relationship and an adversarial relationship to an arms-length relationship. That is, there can be a closely tied yet adversarial relationship and an arms-length yet cooperative relationship. We theorize the buyer-supplier relationship in two orthogonal aspects-(1) relational posture, that is, how two firms regard each other (as cooperative partners or as adversaries) and (2) relational intensity, that is, how much two firms' operations are interlinked (closely tied or arms-length). By considering the two aspects concurrently, this article proposes an expanded typology of buyer-supplier relationships. We label a closely tied and cooperative buyer-supplier type as deep; a closely tied but adversarial type as sticky; an arms-length and adversarial type as "transient and an arms-length but cooperative type as gracious.We then present an analysis that supports the orthogonality of the two relational dimensions. This analysis suggests that the expanded relationship types are associated with different relational outcome trade-offs. The data are collected from a global, large Japanese automaker and 163 of its suppliers in North America. Overall, the results provide empirical support for the expanded buyer-supplier relationship typology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-86
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Supply Chain Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • Adversarial
  • Buyer-supplier relationship
  • Cooperative
  • Governance structure
  • Relational intensity
  • Relational outcomes
  • Relational posture
  • Typology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Marketing


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