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Trade credit use and competition in the value chain

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Economics of Transition / The Economics of Transition

Published online on


Trade credit is a major source of finance in value chains in developed and emerging economies. Despite its ubiquitous use, this is one of the first empirical studies that analyzes why the use of trade credit varies along the value chain. We argue that competition faced by firms at different stages in the value chain and enforcement mechanisms that stimulate repayment jointly determine the use of trade credit. We distinguish two dimensions of competition, that is, rivalry and customer bargaining power. Competition may stimulate firms to provide trade credit to keep customers from switching to other suppliers. Yet, high contract enforcement costs relative to the value of the transactions, reduce the willingness to offer trade credit. We find empirical evidence showing that competition does not (strongly) influence the use of trade credit in the retail market, whereas it does in the markets for wholesalers and millers. We interpret these results as suggestive evidence that the retail, wholesale and milling market segments differ in terms of the enforcement costs involved in the provision of trade credit. Rivalry at the retail market segment makes switching easy for customers, even in case of default. As enforcement of repayment in this market segment is difficult and costly, trade credit appears to be a risky and less attractive marketing instrument for retailers. In contrast, in the wholesale and milling market segment, trade credit is widespread as stakeholders know each other, making informal mechanisms effective in supporting the enforcement of trade credit repayment.