With so much press speculation about a double-dip recession being imminent, I cannot help getting sucked in by headlines that may offer a clue on what’s to come economically. Such was the case today when I saw the headline “Is Apple Fearful of a Consumer Slowdown?”

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That headline actually scared me. After all, if Apple is scared of the short-term economic prospects, certainly investors will be spooked and the stock market will tumble (again).

What I expected to see when I read the associated article was some information about how Apple executives are viewing the short-term economic situation. There was nothing of the sort. What I did see, but didn’t expect to, was a tie-in with Apple’s supplier and competitive strategies.

You see, the article did not cite any sources within Apple regarding the electronic device manufacturer’s take on a possible economic slowdown. It merely said that a third party analyst reported that “has slashed orders to its Asian suppliers of iPad parts by 25%.”

While outsiders have interpreted this to mean a variety of things – including the possibility that consumers are hunkering down in the face of a bad economy – one of the industry experts thinks that it’s merely a matter of Apple’s supplier and competitive strategies being deployed – an observation he calls the “bad-ass competitor hypothesis.”

So, what is the “bad-ass competitor hypothesis?”

The article describes it as “Apple purposefully over order[ing] parts to lock out competitors. Then late in the quarter they scale back knowing it’s too late for rivals to react and too bad for suppliers who wouldn’t dare mutter a bad word about their sugar daddy.”

While very few people know whether or not this is true, it’s undeniably interesting. It if is a tactic being used by Apple, it’s a good example of procurement being deployed in a strategic way: to keep competitors at a disadvantage.

I hope that, if Apple’s order reduction is true, it is because of this competitive strategy instead of a recognition of softening consumer buying power. I also would love it if such reason for the order reduction became public knowledge so that investors could rest easier.

The last thing anyone’s stock portfolio needs is a good business strategy to be misinterpreted as a harbinger of more economic struggles.

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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