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A qualitative examination of decoupling, recoupling and organizational survival of rural retailers

Vanessa P. Jackson (University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA)
Leslie Stoel (The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 6 September 2011




The objective of this research was to identify organizational strategies used by rural retailers to balance conflicting demands of social norms and business performance standards to achieve success.


In‐depth interviews with 12 community leaders and nine locally owned retailers in eight resilient rural communities in six different US states were conducted.


The data suggest that operational strategies of local retailers in rural communities follow internal and external scripts and specific scripts are associated with decoupling and/or recoupling strategies and business survival. Decoupling occurs with internal scripts relating to business strategy and external scripts relating to community involvement and customer value. Recoupling was evident with internal scripts related to business strategy, attitude toward future business growth and attitude toward planning and survival; it was also evident with external scripts relating to community change and the local economy.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should include the development of an instrument to assess a larger sample of rural retailers to determine if the findings of this study are consistent with other retailers. This would lead to the need to develop education materials to help rural retailers improve their survival and continuance.

Practical implications

Rural retailers need to improve their survival and continuance by building reciprocal relationships with the community and consumers, and can do so by seeking training to improve these marketing strategies.


The current research uniquely examines rural retailer ability to balance conflicting norms of the social and task environments and the impact it has on retailer success.



Jackson, V.P. and Stoel, L. (2011), "A qualitative examination of decoupling, recoupling and organizational survival of rural retailers", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 410-428.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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