Learning, knowing and controlling “the stock”: the changing nature of employee discretion in a supermarket chain

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Fuller, Alison ; Kakavelakis, Konstantinos ; Felstead, Alan ; Jewson, Nick ; Unwin, Lorna
  • Publisher: Cardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University
  • Subject: H1 | HD

Ordering and managing stock is a key function to organisational\ud performance in the retail sector in general and in food retail in particular.\ud The advent of such technologies as EDI (electronic data interchange) and\ud EPOS (electronic point of sale scanners) has allowed retail companies to\ud synchronize sales with ordering and inventory replenishment.\ud Subsequently, stock management has been centralised with the head office\ud being responsible for the overall co-ordination of the process while the\ud role of individual stores is merely viewed as the transmittal of customer\ud demands through the supply chain. Reporting data from a case study of a\ud British supermarket chain, this paper explores the nature of the\ud relationship between head office and stores; how it is mediated by the\ud range of technological tools available for managing the stock and also\ud what its implications are for employee learning at store level. The\ud evidence illustrates the dual role of artefacts in making possible long\ud distance control from head office, on the one hand, but also opening up\ud spaces for local discretion and intervention, on the other. Accordingly, the\ud paper also shows how the relation between organisational centre and\ud peripheries gives rise to different types of skills and expertise, providing\ud the basis for a potentially expansive learning environment in the individual\ud stores.
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