Backward Integration

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DEFINITION of 'Backward Integration'

A form of vertical integration that involves the purchase of suppliers. Companies will pursue backward integration when it will result in improved efficiency and cost savings. For example, backward integration might cut transportation costs, improve profit margins and make the firm more competitive.

By way of contrast, forward integration is a type of vertical integration that involves the purchase or control of distributors.

BREAKING DOWN 'Backward Integration'

An example of backward integration would be if a bakery business bought a wheat processor and a wheat farm.

Vertical integration is not inherently good. For many firms, it is more efficient and cost effective to rely on independent distributors and suppliers. For example, backward integration would be undesirable if a supplier could achieve greater economies of scale and provide inputs at a lower cost as an independent business, than if the manufacturer were also the supplier.

An example of forward integration would be if the bakery sold its goods itself at local farmers markets or owned a chain of retail stores, through which it could sell its goods. If the bakery did not own a wheat farm, a wheat processor or a retail outlet, it would not be vertically integrated at all.

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