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Internationalization of SME retailer: barriers and the role of public support organizations

Teresa Fayos Gardó (Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.)
Haydeé Calderón García (Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.)
Alejandro Mollá Descals (Facultad de Economía, Universidad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.)

International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management

ISSN: 0959-0552

Article publication date: 9 February 2015




The need for retailers to internationalize is a growing reality in developed markets. Research examining problems in this process argues that the barriers to internationalization should be studied based on the situation in each country, and that public organizations which implement policies to support internationalization do not always adapt to company needs. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the limited existing research on the subject of Spanish retail internationalization, analysing the problems faced by SMEs and the role of public support organizations in helping them.


By means of in-depth interviews with experts, the authors first, analysed the barriers faced by Spanish retailers in their internationalization processes, and found a predominance of endogenous as opposed to exogenous barriers. Second, the authors studied the appropriateness of support policies for retail needs and identified a significant mismatch.


Results show that the current international economic climate and restricted access to financing, combined with the small size of retailers, their lack of experience in internationalization processes, and the potential that still remains in the local market, are an inducement not to venture into other markets. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness on the part of public organizations about the reality and needs of the retail sector. In addition, the study of retail internationalization as a discipline seems to be in constant flux.

Research limitations/implications

It would be pertinent to consider the findings in the light of a number of limitations of the study. The sample did not consist of retailers but its representatives. The reliance upon a single nation sample could also be viewed as a limitation.

Practical implications

The authors provide Spanish retailers with ideas about the problems they are facing which they will find useful as a starting point for strategic thinking about their internationalization prospects.

Social implications

As for Spanish promotion organizations, they should consider the results of this research and further study the needs of retailers in their internationalization processes while also identifying which companies have the greatest potential for operating in foreign markets.


It is the first time a research for Spain is conducted that highlights the needs of developing a plan to support the internationalization of the retail sector and provide specific lines of action.



This study is framed within Research Project reference number ECO2009-08708 (Ministry of Science and Innovation, Government of Spain, 2010-2013). The aim of this Project is to promote the internationalization of the retailing sector through a comparison between the Spanish and the UK strategies; in this context, for the preparation of this study the above Ministry has provided funding to conduct in-depth interviews.


Fayos Gardó, T., Calderón García, H. and Mollá Descals, A. (2015), "Internationalization of SME retailer: barriers and the role of public support organizations", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 43 No. 2, pp. 183-200.



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