A tactical retreat? Conceptualising the dynamics of European grocery retail divestment from East Asia



Burt S, Coe NM & Davies K (2019) A tactical retreat? Conceptualising the dynamics of European grocery retail divestment from East Asia. International Business Review, 28 (1), pp. 177-189.

The internationalisation of the firm is a highly dynamic process, in which periods of investment and expansion intermingle with periods of divestment and retrenchment. Academic research to date has focused on identifying the reasons for and the processes of divestment. Empirical studies either evidence generic pressures or provide case studies of specific incidents. There few longitudinal studies of international divestment, consequently the dynamic interactions between host market, home market and firm level factors, and how the institutional context changes over time is underplayed. This paper seeks to rectify this gap in our understanding. We explore the rationale and evolving dynamics of European grocery retail divestment in East Asia over a thirty year period. Taking an inductive approach and drawing on analysis of contemporary narratives drawn from company documentation, trade journals, newsfeeds and market reports, three phases can be identified characterised by specific factors and combinations of factors which intersect to provide the key pressures and stimuli for divestment. We conclude that at different time periods, different internal and external contextual influences manifest themselves through different priorities within the firm’s strategy - marked by a switch from local (host) market, to regional, to global firm-centric considerations. Longitudinal analyses allow a greater recognition of this dynamic interplay of factors, and the changes in these relationships, and provides a more nuanced understanding of the international divestment process.

Divestment; grocery retailing; East Asia; market adjustment; market resistance; corporate reconfiguration;

International Business Review: Volume 28, Issue 1

Publication date28/02/2019
Publication date online29/06/2018
Date accepted by journal28/05/2018

People (2)


Professor Steve Burt

Professor Steve Burt

Professor, Marketing & Retail

Dr Keri Davies

Dr Keri Davies

Senior Lecturer, Marketing & Retail