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The internationalisation strategies of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) clothing suppliers in the UK

Evans, Nathalie NF (2017) The internationalisation strategies of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) clothing suppliers in the UK. Masters thesis (MPhil), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

There is limited literature specifically discussing internationalisation strategies of UK Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) clothing suppliers. The UK clothing supply sector is one dominated by SMEs contributing to the UK Economy. This is a significant gap in understanding, now addressed by this study. The main body of research has hitherto emphasised larger firm’s internationalisation patterns and behaviours. This research explores the complex nature of the sector; the barriers and facilitators in relation to SMEs suppliers of clothing to international markets. Four themes emerged from the literature review that inform and shape the research approach. These are the business environment, market entry strategies, supply chains and quality systems. Four research objectives developed for this study build on this conceptualisation as follows: 1. To identify strategies that enable UK SME clothing suppliers achieve their internationalisation goals. 2. To examine the international market entry strategies of UK SME clothing suppliers, with a specific focus on evaluating barriers and facilitators. 3. To evaluate the European Framework for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model (BEM) framework as an analytical tool for SMEs in this sector. 4. To analyse the importance of supply chains in the context of the research study. In order to address these research objectives a case study research design was appropriate. The purpose was to select organisations where it would be possible to gain insights into the complexities of internationalisation for SMEs in the sector. This study adopts an interpretivist approach to guide research on three case organisations based in the North West of England. This approach comprised semi-structured interviews, the appraisal of documentation, informal direct observations and conversational interviews. The European Framework for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model (BEM), used as an analytical tool, guided the research approach and facilitated the coding and analysis of the findings. The findings of this research are that the EFQM BEM is a rigorous analytical framework and has value as an investigative instrument to highlight opportunities and strengths. As such, it highlighted that market uncertainties overshadow business strategies leading them to be reactive. Further, it showed that the owner-managers created distinctive workplace cultures and were able to make decisions quickly. These attributes meant that their businesses and their supply chains responded to market demands with agility, which led to faster response times and provided a competitive advantage. Their reactive ability made them unique and enabled them to survive fast-changing market conditions. However, quality strategies imposed by customers inhibited the business planning process. The overarching outcome is that owner-managers are the main determinants in their business achieving internationalisation goal because they see international activities as central to survival and growth.

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