Niches and Competition: The Ecology of Market Organisation

Title: Niches and Competition: The Ecology of Market Organisation
Author: Boxer, P.J. & Wensley, J.R.C.
Category: Working
Publication Year: 1982

In this paper, we link together some of the analytical approaches adopted by ecological forms of discourse with current evidence and experience in consumer and market segmentation studies. The primary consequence of this work is to refocus our attention away from the concept of the product market, a single or multiple resource to be exploited by producers, towards the concept of the active consumer: the customer who uses the various producer offerings by configuring them in such a way as to support his or her needs as best as s/he is able. Such a refocussing suggests a new view of market organisation in support of such active consumers. In this respect, we echo much of Wroe Alderson’s writing, and are able develop his ideas by looking more closely at the ways in which the organisation and structure of channels of distribution are able to balance with the interests of the other two behaviour systems: those of active consumers, and those which fund channel organisation and structure. Our conclusion is that the word ‘niche’ has been used to support a view of market organisation which has done precisely that which the ecologists would wish us not to do: to encourage a relationship to our environment which does not consider the effect it has on that environment.

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