Published In

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

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Fashion merchandising, Clothing trade -- Management, Business logistics, Operations management


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate high-involvement and short-term supply relationships, known as agile supply partnerships (ASPs), and explores the conditions that support the development of such inter-organizational relationships.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative exploratory research design was followed, based on in-depth case studies of Italian fashion footwear manufacturers and their relationships with key suppliers.

Findings – ASPs appear to be most relevant in supply material categories which have a high impact on the appearance or functionality of the product. Conversely, in supply categories with a low impact, long-term partnerships are preferred. Four main characteristics of ASPs are identified: they are part of a portfolio of relationships to balance the rigidities of long-term strategic partnerships; they have project-like features; they are developed from a network of pre-qualified suppliers; they are recurring and intermittent rather than continuous or isolated one-off short-term partnerships.

Research limitations/implications – The research has been carried out in the context of an Italian footwear district. Further research is required to evaluate the validity of the propositions in other sectors and geographies.

Practical implications – The research can help decision makers in the fashion industry, and potentially other sectors affected by high turbulence, to identify when ASPs are most appropriate and what characteristics they should have.

Originality/value – This research contributes to the literature on agility by empirically evaluating the apparent paradox related to the specific characteristics of supply relationships required to foster an agile strategy and by clarifying the conditions under which fashion companies develop ASPs.


Published by Emerald. This is the Author Accepted Manuscript issued with: Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC:BY:NC 4.0). The final published version (version of record) is available online at

Note: At the time of writing, Carlos Mena was affiliated with Michigan State University.



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