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Engaged business research: the example of retail research at Oxford

Presentation to Engaged Business Research for Impact, May 23rd 2011

Jonathan Reynolds

on 5 January 2016

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Transcript of Engaged business research: the example of retail research at Oxford

Engaged business research:
the example of retail research at Oxford

Dr. Jonathan Reynolds
Academic Director, Oxford Institute of Retail Management
Said Business School
University of Oxford, UK

Where do retailers'
ideas come from?
Consultancy vs scholarship
Developing vehicles for
business engagement
“Relating critical analysis and sound scholarship to the practical needs of retailers and consumer service companies” – a bridging role for 25 years
What kind of retail research
do "we" want?
Research on retail productivity
and skills
Retail location decision-making
Characteristics of
retail scholarship
Two examples of RIBEN's work
Retail research at the
University of Oxford
Broad research themes of commercial as well as of scholarly interest

Engagement and dissemination
Retail planning & development
Innovation & technology in retailing
Retail marketing and strategy
Sustainable consumption
Analysis of international retail performance
Supply chain management
Executive education
Professional programmes: MBA
Oxford Retail Futures Group
Conference & media platforms
What body of retail knowledge do we have?
Where do retailers' ideas come from?
HEIs in the development of retail knowledge
78.2mn hits on Google for ‘retail research’
Of which - 97.3k ‘ac.uk’
Academics don’t have a monopoly of ideas
Growth of management consultancy online ‘conceptware’
Growth of specialist retail consultancy
Consultancies and academics
are concept hungry
produce free white papers
commission academics
academics play their part or take their ball home?
Retail research:
A UK discipline broadly based within business schools
Migration flows between Geography & Business Studies
Identified centres of activity, plus isolated highly rated individual specialists
A ‘tail’ of sub-national work
but ...
Retail research assessed by non-retail specialists
USA drives methodological assessment
Institutional and subject concentration drives out non-core areas
Rankings has driven journal choices, rather than business impact
“.. Are we all to become generalists with an interest in retailing rather than the retail specialists on which the UK retail research reputation has been made?”
Academic-practitioner gap
Is there agreement on the ‘body of knowledge’ and its distinctive contribution?
Does academic research and practice overlap sufficiently?
Do practitioners recognise the distinctive contribution of academics and consultancy?
The retail research agenda: who is in the driving seat?
Establishing research themes:
AIM/ESRC/TSB workshop, London 2008
Research council considerations in funding academic retail research
Policy relevance
Direct application and usefulness
Stress independence (‘no axe to grind’)
Accessible dissemination
Emergent themes
Retail productivity & innovation
Impact of planning & development on local economies
Retail internationalisation
Global supply chain
The changing customer
Store design & the art of selling
Multi-channel business models
Balancing the triple bottom line
Improving the academic/retail link
Drivers of engagement
The links between retail productivity, competitiveness, innovation, skills and regulation are difficult, controversial and politically sensitive

Performance in distributive trades seen as being largely responsible for the widening productivity gap between Europe and the US

"We need a more thorough understanding of what drives productivity in the retail sector"

2004 DTI/Treasury/Retail sector study on drivers and consequences

2010 Retail Skillsmart study on skills implications
Assessing the Productivity of
the UK Retail Sector

Reynolds, J. et al., ‘Assessing the Productivity of the UK Retail Sector’, International Review of Retail, Distribution & Consumer Research, Jul 2005, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p237-280.
Two studies by OXIRM
Scholarly aims
How are different types of knowledge from different sources balanced and mediated?

To what degree can knowledge management principles be successfully formalised into process, techniques and “best practice”?
Output & impact
Practitioner objectives
How are location planning techniques employed by firms in 2010?

How has this changed over the past decade?

What are the likely challenges to be faced by the profession over the next decade?
Retail Industry Business Engagement Network (RIBEN)
Four-university consortium
Southampton (PI)

Combined and complementary strengths across retail-relevant subject areas: £1.49mn grant

Five-year capacity building cluster
15 CASE studentships
8 KTPs
10 3-month placements
15 SME vouchers

Timing (sector)
Co-ordination of elements and of engagement
KTP: Association of Convenience Stores
SME: Purely Plants
Garden Centre
Some concluding thoughts

How will the “body of knowledge” evolve?

What are the emerging topics in social science that will serve to engage retailers & policymakers?


What are the best mechanisms for engagement?


How do we best engage with retail SMEs?
developing a marketing strategy for an independent garden centre
understanding customers better
understanding expectations & experience
critique of current marketing activity
full-time KTP Associate
assessing the economic & social impact of small shops
departure from adversarial lobbying
embedding more rigorous research processes
case studies of practical & policy relevance
scholarly insight into consumption communities
Full transcript