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

Alison Fuller, Konstantinos Kakavelakis, Alan Felstead, Nick Jewson, Lorna Unwin

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


Ordering and managing stock is a key function to organisational
performance in the retail sector in general and in food retail in particular.
The advent of such technologies as EDI (electronic data interchange) and
EPOS (electronic point of sale scanners) has allowed retail companies to
synchronize sales with ordering and inventory replenishment.
Subsequently, stock management has been centralised with the head office
being responsible for the overall co-ordination of the process while the
role of individual stores is merely viewed as the transmittal of customer
demands through the supply chain. Reporting data from a case study of a
British supermarket chain, this paper explores the nature of the
relationship between head office and stores; how it is mediated by the
range of technological tools available for managing the stock and also
what its implications are for employee learning at store level. The
evidence illustrates the dual role of artefacts in making possible long
distance control from head office, on the one hand, but also opening up
spaces for local discretion and intervention, on the other. Accordingly, the
paper also shows how the relation between organisational centre and
peripheries gives rise to different types of skills and expertise, providing
the basis for a potentially expansive learning environment in the individual
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCardiff University
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008

Publication series

NameLearning as Work Research Paper No 12
PublisherCardiff School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University


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