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Durability and retail

The public debate about short product lifetimes and planned premature obsolescence – a product service life artificially shortened by manufacturers – has been widely publicised in recent years. The focus of the debate has been mainly on manufacturers, which lay the foundations for product longevity in the design phase. One player that has received little attention to date is the retail sector. As the point of sale, retail plays a central role in mediating and steering supply and demand. Retailers not only decide what products to put on their shelves and what product assortment to present to potential customers. They are also the direct contact and contractual partner for the customer. Consequently, retailers are thought to have an arsenal of practices and strategies that can have a direct impact on product quality and customer behaviour. The aim of this chapter is to uncover these practices and to ask what influence retail can exert within the supply chain. The chapter discusses the role of retail for durability and how its position and retailing practices in the supply chain exert influence over the lifetime and durability of products.

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