In a free market, who has the most control? The buyer, seller, supplier, or distributor? 

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In a free market, I believe that the buyer has the most control. This may not seem apparent at first look, but one has to consider the adage, “the customer is king (or queen).” It is ultimately the customer (the buyer) that will determine the success of any business. This means that the seller, the supplier, and the distributor are all dependent on the demands of the buyers – consumers.

Look at it this way. A supplier can create what it believes is a quality product, it can get this product to a distributor, who subsequently gets the product to a seller. This could be a retailer, a wholesaler, or an independent sales representative. However, all will be for naught – for the supplier, the distributor, and the seller – in the long run, if there are no buyers to keep this process moving and growing.

Suppliers, distributors, and sellers will only continue to exist as long as there are customers in the loop to buy what they’re, as a group in the supply chain, offering. Think of years ago when Coca-Cola altered its original cola recipe and came out with its new cola product. Coca-Cola was the supplier and distributor (along with other distributors) and the company got its product to sellers. These sellers were convenience stores, supermarkets, foodservice entities, and such.

Buyers, those at the end of this line, didn’t like this new cola recipe. They felt that the company tampered with a recipe that should not have been tampered with. The result: the “buyers didn’t buy” and Coca-Cola had to back-track on this initiative.

The buyers - customers, consumers - were in control here. Nothing that the supplier, distributors, and sellers did could change customers’ minds on what they felt about this new cola. Therefore, the customer was truly King and Queen and their power as buyers meant they were in control – and this control then led Coca-Cola to make changes to their company strategy.

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