This paper presents a survey of the literature on the determinants of inter-firm credit and on its implications for the transmission mechanism of monetary policy. Theoretical explanations for trade credit can be divided in two categories: a) theories based on real functions performed by trade credit; b) theories based on transaction and financial motivations. The former category includes theories that interpret the supply of trade credit as a tool to achieve a variety of marketing objectives (to build customer relationships, as a guarantee for product quality, as a mechanism for price discrimination, as a response to demand variability). The latter category includes theories that consider trade credit as a tool to reduce transaction costs (as a substitute for money) or as a financial alternative to bank credit or to other forms of financing. The paper also examines the macroeconomic implications of these theories, with special reference to the relations between trade credit and monetary policy. Conclusions set forward some hypotheses for research, by looking at preliminary evidence on European countries, which are characterised by strong differences in the length of payment terms that led to the adoption of an EC Directive on combating late payment in commercial transactions.
Published in 2005 in: L. Cannari, S. Chiri, M. Omiccioli (a cura di), Imprese o intermediari? Aspetti finanziari e commerciali del credito tra imprese in Italia, Bologna, il Mulino