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The productivity of large-scale retail organisations in Britain 1950-1980

Buckley, T. R. (2017) The productivity of large-scale retail organisations in Britain 1950-1980. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This dissertation presents new insights into the factors affecting the productivity of large-scale retail organisations operating in Britain and the United States between 1950 and 1980. An international, comparative study has argued that from circa 1870 the most important determinant of service sector productivity, and the key to attaining high levels of service sector productivity growth, was the 'industrialisation of services.' That study, based on a 'top-down' sectoral analysis, argues that the failure of British services to adopt 'industrialised practises: is the critical factor in explaining Britain's international decline relative to the United States and Germany over the course of the 20th century. This research project considers the extent to which such a perspective is consistent with the micro-level evidence. By focusing on one specific service sector industry, retailing, during one precise period of time, 1950-1980, this thesis investigates whether large-scale retail firms in Britain were in any way unable to achieve sustained productivity growth as a result of their inability to embrace mass marketing practise and industrialised retailing processes. This research thus moves away from 'top-down' macro-level productivity estimates and instead builds from the micro-level up using detailed empirical evidence considered in an international perspective. In order to achieve this data was collected and analysed from the archives of a number of large-scale retail organisations operating in both Britain and the United States. Methodologically, therefore, this dissertation concentrates on a small number of large enterprises in order to analyse the crucial issue of barriers to service sector productivity. This thesis shows that from 1950 to 1980 both the productivity and the profitability of British large-scale retail firms improved impressively. It argues that in order to understand what shaped this positive performance it is imperative to appreciate the role and agency of management.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Scott, P. and Walker, J.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:74885
Date on Title Page:2016

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