Trading company

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A trading company (or trading company , trading company ) is, in the legal sense, a company that purchases goods from various suppliers exclusively or predominantly on its own account and in its own name and then merges them into an assortment without major processing or processing to commercial and / or commercial companies resold to non-commercial buyers ( consumers ) .


In terms of commercial law , trading companies operate a trade . Goods are called products in the industrial sphere, products in the agricultural sphere, and commodities when they are completely fungible ; as soon as they pass into the possession of the trade , they are called articles . A trading company is the economic unit with which a trading company operates on the market. A trading group can also consist of several affiliated trading companies like a trading company of several affiliated trading companies. For example, a multi-company or branch company has several sales outlets. Colloquially, trading companies and trading operations are often used identically.

Basically, trading companies are divided into the forms of wholesale ( English wholesale ) and retail ( English retail ). The delimitation criterion is not the quantity of goods traded, but the exclusively or predominantly supplied group of customers . Wholesale companies have commercial buyers (e.g. retail, craft , catering , industrial companies ) and so-called bulk buyers (e.g. canteens , canteens ) as customers . In contrast, the customers of retail businesses are households ( consumers ). If the customers are exclusively or predominantly abroad, the corresponding trading companies are part of the external wholesale or external retail trade. The numerous institutional manifestations of wholesale and retail trade, particularly in domestic trade are as independent forms of operation - true farm types - differentiated. The development of new types of business (modification of business types, innovation of business types) is the subject of strategic retail marketing .

Furthermore, a distinction can be made between floor trading , which offers the goods for viewing, and non-floor trading. The latter include the stock exchanges ( commodities and securities exchanges ) and online trading .

Trading functions

These are services and tasks that a trading company performs in the sales chain between the manufacturer and the commercial and non-commercial users of the products. Producers take their part in the procurement of raw materials , consumables and supplies services of (large) trade to complete. The Study of commerce has developed numerous trade functions. Typical are:

  • Space bridging function : Transport of goods from the production or supplier sphere to the vicinity of the customer;
  • Time-bridging or warehousing function : the products manufactured in industry are not bought immediately by the consumer, but only when needed; this period is bridged by storage by the trade;
  • Assortment function : consumer-oriented bundling of assortments from different manufacturers;
  • Quality function : offer in customer-oriented, differentiated qualities ;
  • Quantity function : offer in customized quantities ;
  • Credit function : granting supplier and customer credit ;
  • Service function : Provision of commercial and / or technical services, e.g. B. Exchange , shipping ; Spare parts supply , assembly , repair ;
  • Information and advice function : information about product properties and possible uses;
  • Market influencing function : transfer of information to market participants , especially potential customers;
  • Cultural function : opening up access to goods from all cultures.

Law of the Dynamics of Business Forms

By Robert Nieschlag so called "dynamic of the types of operation" describes the development of new forms of operation and operation types of trade as a quasi-legitimate succession of four stages, similar to the product life cycle in marketing. This concept is related to Malcom P. McNair's “Wheel of Retailing”.

In the first phase (emergence), the new type of company pursues an aggressive low-price strategy in order to get into the market . The second phase (advancement) is characterized by disproportionate sales and profit growth and thus competitive advantages over competing types of business. The third phase (maturity) is characterized by stagnation in growth and decline in profits. The previous price-oriented policy must be modified. The new type of business is losing market share . There must be a trading-up , which is associated with higher costs . Due to the rise in costs, the new type of business has to adjust the prices to those of the conventional, also reactive types of business. The fourth phase (decline or degeneration and assimilation) opens up opportunities for new types of farms due to the generally higher price level. The “Wheel of Retailing” starts all over again.

As criticisms only the following are mentioned: From a law can be no question, because the duration of the four phases is ambiguous and unpredictable (lack of prognostic relevance). Furthermore, not every new and successful form of trading begins with a low-price strategy, which is proven by numerous counterexamples. The convenience shops designed their market access with a high price strategy . Discounters, on the other hand, implemented an ongoing low-price strategy. Other new types of business start with a new product range idea , with new services or with a new sales technique, whereby it can happen that the new type of business quickly turns out to be a flop and does not show any (four-phase) life cycle at all. Failed attempts with moving shops in Berlin in the 1920s, with vending machine shops or with catalog showrooms are examples. Finally, the assumption that the maturity phase must inevitably be followed by a decline phase fails to recognize that retail companies will increasingly engage in active retail marketing at the latest in the phase of sales stagnation and avert a decline.


  • Lothar Müller-Hagedorn: The trade. Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-17-015338-2 .
  • Hans-Otto Schenk : The “laws” of trade , in: Business Laws, Effects and Principles, Munich 1979, pp. 28–37.
  • Hans-Otto Schenk: trading companies. In: Bruno Tietz, Richard Köhler, Joachim Zentes (eds.): Short dictionary of marketing (HWM). 2nd Edition. Stuttgart 1995, pp. 851-863.
  • Hans-Otto Schenk: Psychology in Commerce. 2nd Edition. Munich / Vienna 2007, ISBN 978-3-486-58379-3 .
  • Bruno Tietz: The trading company. 2nd Edition. Munich 1993, ISBN 3-8006-1637-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Otto Schenk: History and order theory of the commercial functions. 1970, p. 17 ff.