I am describing a business model of doing a lot of buying and selling in very small quantity.

Retailing is not the right word. In my case the small buying and purchasing is not due to demand being small, like retail, but that demand is unknown.

It's like if you supply a hungry man who cannot speak (or an animal), you can only supply bit by bit, until he refuses to eat more. It is not retailing, it is the only way to satisfy unkown demand without oversupplying, especially if the over-supplied part is expensive to return to storage, and repeated supply is, seeming onerous, actually cheap to achieve -- seemingly impossible but it works in the Internet era when the supplier is a software program.

How can I name this market behaviour or business model? A phrase less than 4 words should be idea. The concept is only debated a dozen times in the project, so it doesn't have to be squeezed down to a single word. I thought of "food-pecking", like a chicken pecks food little by little. Any more ideas?


6 Answers 6


Piecemeal (= By a small amount at a time; in stages) supply

Micro retailing

  • I found the definition fits. Dictionary examples are: "K. Tynan Planning to break up the collection and resell it piecemeal." and "If the prey is too heavy..they will tear it..and carry it away piecemeal." Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 16:14

Consider using incremental. The definition of increment is

1.an increase or addition, esp one of a series

2.the act of increasing; augmentation

The term incremental is often used to connote a small increase

of, relating to, being, or occurring in especially small increments - incremental additions; incremental change

Some possible phrases are

incremental implementation

incremental marketing

incremental retailing


If you want it to sound "businessy", how about one of these:

  • Micro Demand Fulfilment
  • Short Order Supply

You could call it just-in-time inventory, or the just-in-time model.

Just-in-time (JIT) inventory concepts can be used at all levels of production; for example, a car manufacturer might strive to not overstock on parts. But JIT can also be used to describe a retail model between sellers and customers.

One textbook describes the paradigm as follows:

A perfectly synchronized process always supplies just he right quantity of the right quality product, at just the right time, in just the right place. These four "just rights" of synchronization form the core of the just-in-time paradigm. Just-in-time refers to an action taken only when it becomes necessary.

(from Managing Business Process Flows: Principles of Operations Management, by R. Anupindi, et al., 2012; emphasis in the original)

Those who try to use this paradigm find it a challenge to anticipate demand. But you acknowledge thi,s when you said that it was "seemingly impossible but it works in the Internet era when the supplier is a software program."

You can find links to other definitions of just-in-time by visiting this page, including links to business dictionaries.

  • Thanks a lot! I forgot to mention I am debating this aginst models, so naming it JIT sounds as if I already consider this model more advantageous before prooving it. Thus I used piecemeal in the end, which has no color, just descriptive. Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:36
  • @ZhangWeiwu: I would agree that piecemeal is a more readily understood term, while JIT is a more technical term.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 9:44


This kind of business model is sometime called an 'arbitrage' model, since many decision must be made in an ongoing, day-by-day operations, in order to keep the business (LOB) running.

The usage in this context comes from the market-trading practice, where small differences are compared to make low-risk decisions. While low-risk, the decisions are typically numerous, demanding more overhead cost to do the LOB, which dilutes profits, and overall value.

Compare this non-arbitrage models, like account sales or IP licensing - where one sales generates revenue in an ongoing basis (without additions operational decisions / actions).


This is a term that often is used in the context of an assemblage of many small pieces. When making a mosaic floor pattern, many of the individual tiles are not very important, and a non-precise range of tile colors can do the job.

This latter element may match your retail case.

  • Arbitrage is good, except that this work is actually a work to compare different method of arbitrage... thanks a lot! Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:43
  • @ZhangWeiwu I added another term for your consideration Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 14:34

You can use Modicum (a small quantity).

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