Research project on women in retail granted 3,6 million

Why do retail firms in Sweden started by women tend to be smaller and grow less than those started by men? This will be investigated in a new research project led by Lucia Naldi, Professor in Business Administration at Jönköping International Business School (JIBS).

The three-year research project Women in Retail has been granted 3.6 SEK from the Hakon Swensson foundation. Lucia Naldi and project members Helena Nilsson, Assistant Professor in Economics and Magdalena Markowska, Assistant Professor in Business Administration at JIBS (representing all research centres at JIBS, CEnSE, MMTC, and CeFEO) will, during the project, contribute new knowledge on women entrepreneurs in Sweden.

"This project is relevant as it will not only highlight some of the impediments that account for the low growth of female-led firms in retail but also offer practical insights into how some women entrepreneurs can innovate and thrive in this industry," says Lucia Naldi

According to the researchers, a paradox constrains the growth of retailing in Sweden and worldwide. While more than half of the new firms in retail are started by women, these firms tend to be smaller and grow less than those started by men. To address this paradox, the project focuses on three equally critical issues.

  • First, it examines why women decide to start a retail firm and how their family situation affects and is affected by this decision.
  • Second, the project explores what characterizes the retail firms started and run by women in terms of location, size, and growth prospects.
  • Third, it explores what distribution channels (online, physical store, or combinations of the two) women entrepreneurs choose and the growth implications of these choices.

The project will use a multi-method approach, combining a quantitative study of matched employer/employee panel data and a multiple case study following twenty female entrepreneurs and their retail firms over the three years.

"The research team and I are pretty excited about this project and the potential to learn more about women entrepreneurs in retail," says Lucia Naldi.

From the left: Lucia Naldi, Helena Nilsson, Magdalena Markowska

The Hakon Swenson Foundation's purpose is to support research, education and entrepreneurship in the consumer and trade area and to represent knowledge production and dissemination in these areas. The Foundation was formed in 2007 when the ICA Retailers' Association, a member organization for Sweden's approximately 1500 ICA retailers, allocated SEK 90 million to form the Hakon Swenson Foundation. One of the main reasons for the Foundation's formation is that ICA retailers felt that the issues and challenges of retail need to be given an increased focus, not least from a research perspective. Hakon Swenson founded ICA and the ICA idea in 1917.