A contingent look at retail internationalization: Proposition of a taxonomy and discussion of theoretical challenges

Renata Maria de Almeida Bastos Gomes, Jorge Manoel Teixeira Carneiro, Luis Antonio da Rocha Dib


There is no agreement upon the set of dimensions to be used to categorize distinct types of retailers and, consequently, it is difficult to disentangle the particularities of the internationalization trajectories of specific types of retailers. In this article, we propose a taxonomy of the firms involved in international retailing and discuss the differences in the internationalization patterns of the retail business across the types of retailers. The data was collected from an extensive review of the literature on retail internationalization and from several secondary sources, such as a report of a research institute and retailers’ websites, as well as from visits to stores. The proposed taxonomy identifies three distinct types: (i) traditional retailers, (e.g., Walmart, JCPenney), which distribute a varied array of third parties’ brands, (ii) specialized branded retailers (e.g., Zara, H&M), which are exclusive distributors of their own brands, and (iii) direct branded retailers (e.g., Adidas, Louis Vuitton), firms that are brand manufacturers’ that are also distributors of their brands, but in a non-exclusive manner, as such brands are also distributed through other retailers. This contingent view of retail internationalization helps overcome two week points this field has: (i) the pervasive research practice of employing mixed samples of distinct types of retailers; and (ii) the inadvertent focus on traditional retailers, such as supermarkets and department stores, as if they were representative of the population of international retailers as a whole, which contrasts with the noticeable increase in the international retail distribution of consumer products through monobranded stores.

Keywords: retail internationalization, retailer types, taxonomy.


retail, internationalization, taxonomy

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