An examination of the internationalisation process of the smaller craft firm in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland
This thesis involves an examination of the internationalisation process of the smaller craft firm in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Sectoral analysis was carried out in order to determine historical precedents as well as the identification of industry and firm level factors impinging upon domestic and export market behaviour. Key findings at this stage included the fact that the majority of craft firms could be classified as small and that they impact economically at both domestic and international level. The majority of existing craft sector research is practitioner specific, with little evidence of theoretical rigour. Following this, a range of internationalisation theories were discussed, from their historical provenance in economic trade theory to the more recent developments concerning the impact of technology and networking. It was concluded that the majority of these frameworks fail to readily explain smaller firm internationalisation behaviour. The research methodology followed was pluralistic in nature, given that the majority of existing internationalisation studies follow the quantitative method and are generally replicative. It was believed that by adopting both quantitative and qualitative methods, a richer amount of data would be obtained in order to generate an improved understanding of smaller firm internationalisation. Research propositions centred on the belief that investigation of the sector would uncover a number of internal and external impinging factors which were specific to the craft firm. Future modelling of the internationalisation process would need to account for situation specific factors, instead of attempting to offer a generic interpretation of the process. Quantitative results identified the majority of firms as microenterprises with trade fairs and networking shown to be the most effective forms of export marketing research and methods of entry into international markets. The main export markets were identified as other European Union countries and North America. The only significant differences among export groups from the five countries surveyed related to the Far East as an export market destination. Qualitative results generally supported the quantitative findings and, in addition, enabled profiling of craft firm types to be carried out. Four orientations were uncovered: the entrepreneur, the idealist, the lifestyler and the latecomer. Exporting behaviour was also found to be affected by the cultural background of the owner/manager. Comparison of the results with existing literature facilitated the construction of frameworks relating to smaller craft firm internationalisation behaviour, performance and success. Interpretation of these factors was found to vary depending on owner/manager orientation. A number of theoretical implications were presented, including the promotion of the belief that the emerging marketing and entrepreneurship paradigm provides additional understanding to smaller craft firm internationalisation. A composite framework of the various factors uncovered in the analysis was constructed. Practical implications include the belief that, instead of support organisations offering generic exporting advice, sector specific information and support is more beneficial to encouraging future exporting success. It was recognised that future comparative research examining internationalisation behaviour of craft firms of various sizes, as well as assessing consumption issues relating to the craft product, would prove valuable in additional knowledge contribution.