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Consumer acceptance and market success: Wal-Mart in the UK and Germany

Pioch, Elke and Gerhard, Ulrike and Fernie, John and Arnold, Stephen J. (2009) Consumer acceptance and market success: Wal-Mart in the UK and Germany. International journal of retail & distribution management, 37 (3). pp. 205-225. ISSN 0959-0552

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Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to explore Wal-Mart's varying performance in Europe and eventual exit from the German market by singling out the role of consumer acceptance of Wal-Mart's market propositions. Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses the macro-constructs of institutional theory to interpret and conceptualise micro-level consumer data. Data were collected via telephone surveys in two regional German and UK markets in 2002/2003. Salient patronage norms in each market were established and Wal-Mart's as well as its competitors' performance on those norms were assessed. Findings – In the German context, the institutional theory approach to explaining Wal-Mart's problems clearly foreshadows market failure and exit. In UK market, no clear pattern between retailers adhering to salient patronage norms, patronage behaviour and market position could be established. The constructs of institutional theory were more likely to predict and explain market failure than success. Research limitations/implications – Research in two regional markets limits the applicability of findings. Nevertheless, some key issues seem to indicate overall market performance. The telephone survey approach carries inherent problems, which however have only marginally impacted on the relevance of the findings. Originality/value – The use of institutional theory constructs adds a further dimension to the discussion of international retailer success/failure and can constitute a valuable tool in the repertoire of the divestment and failure literature.

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