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L'américanisation en Europe au xxe siècle : économie, culture, politique. Volume 1

 | 
Isabelle Lescent-Giles
, 
Dominique Barjot
, 
Marc de Ferrière

Troisième partie. Une diffusion progressive

The effects of regulationmarch 1989 and American retail models to Finnish retail sector (1942-1995)

Juha-Antti Lamberg

Résumé

L’objetif de cette étude est d’analyser les réponses stratégiques des entreprises finlandaises de commerce de détail lors de changements institutionnels majeurs survenus dans les années 1960 à 1990. La stratégie de recherche a consisté à analyser le processus de changement de quatre firmes majeurs du secteur (TUKO, Kesko, SOK, OTK) en utilisant les méthodes d’analyse historiques et de description quantitative. Les résultats de cette étude impliquaient que toutes organisations de commerce de détail avaient conservé à l’identique leur structure centrale durant la période de changement. Donc le succès ou l’échec de ces organisations dépendaient davantage de l’organisation originale de leur structure et de leurs codes culturels plutôt que de la manière dont fut managé le processus de changement.

Texte intégral

INTRODUCTION

  • 1 A.D. Chandler Jr., Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise. Ca (...)
  • 2 H. Mintzberc, J.A. Waters, “Tracking Strategy in an Entrepreneurial Firm”, Academy of Management jo (...)

1The history of retail trade during industrialization and urbanization is a classic example about the structural consequences of a major social and managerial change. It is illustrative that for example Alfred Chandler has used Wholesale/retail industry as one of his key examples both in “Strategy and Structure” and in “Invisible Hand”.1 Another good example is Henry Mintzberg’s research around the Canadian Steinberg Corporation.2 Both scholars have described how North-American firms adopted modem marketing management techniques-and how they practically created a global standard for “good” retail management. As a consequence, shopping in any grocery shop around the Western World is a harmonized experience.

  • 3 N. Home, Vähittäiskaupan rakennemuutos 1950-luvulta 1980-luvulle. Helsinki, Helsingin kauppakorkeak (...)
  • 4 TUKO 1945-1981, Minutes of the board. TUKO, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli; (...)
  • 5 Chandler 1977; J.M. Mayo, The American Grocery Store: The Business Evolution of an Architectural Sp (...)
  • 6 E. Pihkala, “Kotimaankauppa ja muut palvelut”. Suomen taloushistoria II. Helsinki, 1982.

2My purpose is to analyze how Finnish retail companies reacted to major institutional and social changes in 1960-1990s when Finland was urbanized, sub-urbanized, de-regulated, motorized, and finally computerized.3 The focus of the analysis is on the content of change in four major retail/Wholesale organizations. On the population level, the development was dramatic but expected: all players were able to forecast already in 1950s, that Finland's retail sector was probably going to meet similar environmental change that has happened in more developed countries, especially in United States.4 Furthermore, the consequences and most effective organizational strategies were equally expected because North-American retailers had adapted the self-service form already in 1920-1930s and even the supermarkets had became more frequent in 1950s.5 Altogether, the question is not the lack of information about the environmental changes and related corporate strategies but rather why all companies reacted quite differently when Finnish government started to deregulate the retail trade in the midst of the 1960s.6

  • 7 Chandler 1977; B. Mason, M.L. Mayer, Modem Retailing. Theory and Practise. Piano, Texas, 1987; Mayo(...)

3My aim is not to discuss about the justification of this “American” retail management model. Furthermore, a basic assumption is that the content of this standard retailing model is already well documented in research, and in textbooks.7 Thus, a central idea in this paper is that Americanization was an inevitable process in Finnish retail trade, and that a commercial success was possible only if companies were able to adopt key innovations: self-service, mass marketing, supermarkets and finally hypermarkets. In this sense, Americanization is taken as a victorious innovation-positive thing in plain English. Accordingly, because of the global “Americanization”, all organizations had the same information and according their internal material, they were able to read the information correctly as well. Accordingly, my aim is to analyze:

  1. how the firms reacted to the major environmental change

  2. how intra-organizational structural forces affected their strategic choices and

  3. why two very different kind of organizations survived and two other demised until 1995.

4The paper is divided into five parts. After the introductory part, I will explain my research strategy in detail. In the second part, I describe the four retail companies and their organizational structures during the change process. Moreover, I will outline the institutional and competitive environment thus creating the context for intra-organizational analysis. Thirdly, I analyze how companies reacted to the environmental change in their marketing strategies. The basic idea is that their positioning in advertisements and store types reflects their ability/readiness to manage the change process. In the fourth part, my aim is to explain how organizational structures affected strategy making during the potential reorganization period and why companies met the changes differently. In the final and conclusive section, I will summarize main empirical findings.

CONCEPTUAL FRAME AND RESEARCH PROBLEM

  • 8 P. Selznick, Leadership in Administration: A Socilogical Interpretation. New York, Harper & Row, 19 (...)
  • 9 Simon 1993.
  • 10 G.E. Ledford, S.A. Mohrman, A. Mohrman, E.E. Lawler, The Phenomenon of Large-Scale Organizational C (...)

5Major part of the research about organizational behavior and strategic management is based on implicit or explicit idea about the flexibility of organizations: with good management and adequate organizational resources firms should be able to adapt to environmental changes.8 The biggest problem is thought to be the managing of information-not the organizations’capacity to adapt as such.9 Nonetheless, these adaptation and strategic choice schools are built around the belief that organizations are able to manage environmental changes.10

  • 11 M.T. Hannan, F.J. Hannan, “The population ecology of organizations”. American Journal of Sociology (...)
  • 12 Hannan 1989.

6The counter-force to adaptive theories is the evolutionary school of thought, and especially organization ecology, represented by Michael Hannan and John Freeman.11 Building on Darwinists ideas, they argue that organizations rarely make the time but rather the time makes organizations. Hence, the survival of organizations is more dependent on selection than adaptation. Furthermore, Hannan and Freeman claim that organizations are usually unable to change — at least quickly — their cote structures those have been created in the earliest stages of the organization's history.12

7My purpose is to analyze the fit between the retail organization and its'environment by describing how effectively — or not — companies were able to allocate their resources in advertising and store founding. In Finland Kesko and SOK were winners of the retail competition from 1990s perspective, whereas Tuko and OTK demised in the early 1990s. Accordingly, the death of two organizations should be a logical consequence of their ineffective resource allocation and more fundamentally: their inability to change their organizational structure. On the contrary, the “winners” of the process should have done their strategy implementation more effectively.

  • 13 R. Batra, J. Myers, D. Aaker, Advertising Management. Upper Saddle River, (N.J.), Prentice Hall Inc (...)
  • 14 R.W. Pollay, S. Siddarth., M. Sieger, A. Haddix, “The last straw? Cigarette avertising and realized (...)
  • 15 K. Koistinen j., V. Risto, Päivittäistavarakaupan rakenne ja keskittyminen, Helsinki, Kuluttajatutk (...)

8Methodologically, I will use a simplified modification of share of voice model.13 This model, normally used in marketing analysis, implicates that retail firms should have at least the same share of advertising volume and in this case, store surface as their market share is if they want to maintain or strengthen their competitive position.14 My starting point is that together advertising and store structure reflects well organizational strategic responses. In homogenous market environment, characterized by uniform consumption habits and products,15 these two variables were crucial for the competitive success or failure. Accordingly, organizations strategic response is posited to be the function of its present market share, and it's strategic position in focal store types and advertisement sectors — i.e. how it is prepared for future competition.

9To conclude, my central research premises and assumptions about organizational change and decision-making are:

    • 16 Hannan 1989.

    Organizations are typically unable to match structural changes to their competitive environment in a timely fashion (relative inertia thesis).16

    • 17 A. Strauss, “The Hospital and It's Negotiated Order”. The Hospital in Modem Society. E. Freidson. N (...)

    Organizational strategic decision-making and implementation is dependent on intra-and inter-organizational political processes and negotiations, and on historical path-dependencies inside17 organizations.

  1. Major re-allocations of resources are needed for re-organization during environmental change.

  2. In Finnish retail sector, advertising and store surface investments reflected how firms were able to adapt to environmental changes

  3. Consequently, successful long-run adaptation was possible only by matching the present market share with equal presence in strategically crucial segments of advertisements and stores.

  4. Organizations ability to respond effectively toward environmental changes correlates strongly with the level of political nature in it's decision-making processes.

RESEARCH STRATE GY, METHOD AND MATERIAL

  • 18 R. Burgelman, “Strategy-Making and Organizational Ecology: A Conceptual Integration”. Organizationa (...)
  • 19 A. Langley, “Strategies for theorizing from process data”. Academy of Management Review 24 (4), 199 (...)
  • 20 March 1989; D.C. North, Institutions, institutional change, and economic performance. Cambridge; (N (...)

10My research strategy is to use the intellectual perspective18 and key concepts of organization ecology as a starting point for primarily qualitative analysis. Thus, emphasis is on interpretative process analysis.19 Moreover, I will exploit conceptual tools from institutional theories20 to highlight certain aspects both on the micro-and macro-level analysis.

11This paper is a part of larger project about strategic development and competition in Finnish retail sector after the Second World War. Consequently, the analysis exploits large material of both quantitative data and textual material. The description of organizational responses is based on database about store-structure and advertisements in major Finnish newspapers. Hence, my research strategy is not limited to purely qualitative approaches although descriptive quantitative methods are primarily used to systematize otherwise lengthy narration.

12Most of the materials are standard choices for longitudinal organizational analysis: statistics, magazine articles, annual reports and so forth. For the SOV analysis I have used a database of over 22000 grocery advertisements, published in three major newspaper in 1945-1995. The database was built with a calendar-sample method, including both quantitative (volume) and qualitative (colors, pictures, style) information about retail advertising. For share of space (SOS) analysis, I have used annual statistics of AC Nielsen Company. Market share information is compiled from AC Nielsen's monthly statistics.

  • 21 B.R. Golden, “The past is the past-or is it? The use of retrospective accounts as indicators of pas (...)

13Intra-organizational analysis — how firms saw the situation, what strategies were planned and how company politics affected decision-making — is built on published material and archivai material from TUKO-company. This material includes company correspondence, research reports, strategic plans and minutes from board of directors meeting. Together with interviews of TUKO’s key executives (during years 2000-2001), this material gives possibilities for indepth analysis of intra-organizational decision-making climate and processes. However, it should be noted that for retrospective errors in managers' personal accounts21 — in this case communicated via interviews — the analysis is mostly built on textual material, produced for managerial purposes in the past.

  • 22 Home 1977; Mäkinen 1982.
  • 23 M. Lehti, The formation of resource allocation strategy of the firm and the underlyin gperformance (...)
  • 24 Uusitalo 1998.
  • 25 T. Perko, Yhdessa enemmän: SOK 1904-1979. Helsinki, SOK, 1979; Hoffman 1990; Kallenautio 1992.

14In earlier studies, retail sector has been analyzed from evolutionary perspective22, and from the strategic management point of view.23 Uusitalo has analyzed Finnish grocery trade from consumer perspective.24 Except TUKO, all major retail companies have published their company histories during 1980-1990s.25

CONTEXT

  • 26 N. Home, Kyläkaupasta supermarketiin. Vähittäiskaupan sopeutuminen yhteiskunnan rakennemuutokseen v (...)
  • 27 Hoffman 1990; Lehti 1990; Uusitalo 1998.
  • 28 Mäkinen 1982; Home 1989.
  • 29 P. Mathias, Retailing Revolution. London, 1967; Chandler 1977; Mintzberg 1982; A.D. Chandler, Scale (...)
  • 30 Koistinen 1997; Uusitalo 1998.

15The competitive and institutional landscape of Finnish retail industry transformed from stability to unstable, unregulated competition in two phases. First change was sociological and demographical26, second technological.27 The first phase started in late 1950s including many simultaneous and related processes: urbanization, de-regulation of both domestic and foreign trade, motorization (as a consequence of economic growth and trade liberalization), and in 1970s, sub-urbanizadon.28 This first stage of environmental change was a fundamental sociological revolution rather than evolution. It is noteworthy, however, that Finland went through almost exactly same changes as other Western European countries and United States — only ten or twenty years later.29 In 1980s, Finnish retail sector faced second phase of change: computerization. It was a major technological change, leading for example centralized marketing management Systems, and later to advanced consumer response management.30

Picture 1: Environmental change in Finnish retail industry 1950-2000

  • 31 Home 1989.
  • 32 Hjerppe 1996.

16It is noteworthy, that the most radical changes occurred in only twenty years period in 1960-1970s. Part-reason for this phenomenon was that Finnish government first maintained regulated institutional framework as long as possible and then de-regulated the economy in about ten years beginning from mid 1950s.31 It may be posited that both endogenous (demographic change) and exogenous (liberalization of European trade System) pressures towards deregulation were so strong that Finland had no other possibilities than adapt to the de-regulative era.32

  • 33 Lehti 1990.
  • 34 Hoffman 1990.

17Besides of the fondamental domestic and international pressures, some Finnish retail companies were eager to start price competition already in the late 1950s. Especially, privately held K-stores were accused for illegal discounting and price advertising as early as 1959. These separate incidents in late 1950s and early 1960s reflected on the one hand, the fact that privately owned Kesko and TUKO were mentally better prepared for de-regulated competition than their cooperative counterparts, SOK and OTK (EKA).33 On the other hand, retail organizations were pushing Finnish Government toward de-regulation as well.34

  • 35 Pihkala 1982.
  • 36 Tuko 1984; Home 1989; Hoffman 1990.
  • 37 Perko 1979.
  • 38 Hoffman 1990.

18The competitive landscape of Finnish retail sector was locked-in for twenty years in 1941-1942 when the Wholesale companies were organized to carry the responsibility over the distribution of rationed food-and consumer products.35 At this point, TUKO and KESKO were founded to represent the interests of private wholesalers and grocery stores in the rationing “pool”.36 During the Second World War, TUKO distributed about 40-60 per cent of groceries and the three other organizations shared the rest. In early 1950s, SOKs market share of retail trade was about 18-20 percent, OTKs 13-15 and Kesko's 20 percent. Hence, TUKO was the biggest player with even 40-50 percents market share.37 The wartime status quo was held during the whole 1950s although Kesko started to gain more market share by the expense of TUKO.38

19Around the midst of 1960s, when the competition seriously started in Finland, competing retail organizations were quite different both structurally and culturally.

  • 39 Tuko 1984.
  • 40 Tuko 1945-1981; Tuko 1951-1977; Tuko 1973-1982, Minutes of bi-annual marketing meetings. Tuko, Cent (...)
  • 41 Tuko 1942-1995, Annual Reports. Tuko, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli.; Tuko(...)

20TUKO or rather its' owners, local Wholesale companies, had very much to loose in de-regulation. Before deregulation, it has been the wholesaler for the majority of private grocery shops in the countryside.39 Urbanization and motorization threatened TUKO's position by two ways. First, majority of the customers in rural areas and small towns were going out of business, and accordingly, their wholesalers' were facing mortality as well. Secondly, motorization and improved transportation possibilities made the wide network of independent Wholesale units unnecessary: the trend was towards centralized distribution units. Simultaneously, the retail business became the focal business area instead of wholesaling. Nevertheless, the strategic focus in TUKO remained in wholesaling until late 1970s and even during 1980s—mostly because of the political power of its' shareowner wholesalers who were unwilling to give up their traditional business.40 Nonetheless, TUKO was not totally passive during the process, and it made many strategic moves toward “modem” retail business in 1960—1970, divesting for example its' industrial units in 1960s.41

  • 42 H. Mintzberg, Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations. New York, The Fre (...)
  • 43 Hoffman 1990.

21Using Henry Mintzberg's conceptual framework, Kesko was clearly a professional or even innovative organization in the early 1960s: much power was given to the retailers who acted independently close to their customers.42 Consequently, it had the best readiness to use the opportunity window during the de-regulation period. First explanation for Kesko's flexibility during the change was its structure: the single retailers were the core of the company. Hence, when the urbanization started, store-owners had to urbanize as well, or to quit the business.43 Second, related explanation was Kesko's professionalism in supporting retail business. For example, research about new business opportunities in urban areas was taken very seriously in Kesko. Furthermore, Kesko's central administration was able to collect financiation from various sources for store building. Thus, the firm was able to circumvent the official constraints around business fmanciation.

  • 44 Mintzberg 1989.
  • 45 Perko 1979; Kallenautio 1992; Uusitalo 1998.

22SOK and OTK were both diversified companies until early 1980s, and OTK/EKA even until its de facto bankruptcy in 1992. Of diversified forms, they had adapted the by-product diversification although the majority of industrial products were distributed through own retail units. Of these two co-ops, SOK had characteristics from both diversified and machine organization.44 Nevertheless, during its turn-around in 1980s, it was clearly a machine organization, building heavily on strategic planning and techno-structure. An important part in both of these organizations, were their individual members (over 600 000 in SOK, and 700 000 in OTK). Members created external pressure for inertia, but were a valuable asset in 1980s, when consumer response management was adapted in Finland.45

REACTION

23The radical change in 1960s was an opportunity window for Kesko, a threat for the co-ops, and a mixed blessing situation for TUKO's top management team. Nevertheless, during a very short period of rime, from early 1960s to early 1970s, the competitive landscape of Finnish retail industry was again locked-in: Kesko took the major part of sales, TUKO and SOK competed for the second place and OTK remained in its 13-14 percent level.

Picture 2: Finnish grocery markets 1960-2000 Note: 1960-1970 interpolated linearly. AC Nielsen 1971-2000; PERKO 1980.

Picture 2: Finnish grocery markets 1960-2000 Note: 1960-1970 interpolated linearly. AC Nielsen 1971-2000; PERKO 1980.

24Kesko's dominance continued until late 1990s, when it started to slightly lose its'share to SOK. TUKO's part was to lose ground incrementally, only exception being 1980s when it stabilized it's position, and was even able to gain more share. OTK was not able to gain more sales, nor did it lose dramatically. However, Kesko's dominant market position — gained in practically ten or fifteen years — made it overwhelmingly profitable in comparison to its competitors (table 1).

Table 1: Cumulative economic performance of Finnish retail companies 1970-1990s. 1995 Millions. Finnish markka's and per cents.

Table 1: Cumulative economic performance of Finnish retail companies 1970-1990s. 1995 Millions. Finnish markka's and per cents.

Sources: RICA 1942-1995; KESKO 1942-1995; SOK 1942-1995; TUKO 1942-1995

  • 46 Peltoniemi 1993; B.S. Silverman, J.A. Nickerson, J. Freeman, “Profitability, transactional alignmen (...)
  • 47 Kallenautio 1992.

25The cumulative losses and dept ratio of OTK and TUKO explain partially why they had to exit in the early 1990s: thin or non-existent organizational slack is the usual reason for business exit46 On the contrary, Kesko and SOK, as winners of the retail competition, were profitable and used parallel amounts of money to investments. It is noteworthy, that OTK spent over 50 percent of it's investments to ifs industrial divisions47.

26Cumulative losses and profits were the end-result of the thirty years long evolutionary processes. One of the main purposes of this paper was to analyze how organizations responded to environmental changes. Finland's role as a latecomer in urbanization and economic growth makes possible to posit that for every stimulus we can find a correct strategic response. In this case, correct response is posited to be the adoptation of the standard American retail management model. To operationalize this postulate, I have divided the period from 1960s to 1995 to four phases: regulative/agrarian environment (cut-year 1960); urbanizing (1970); sub-urbanizing (1980), and de-regulated/stabilized competitive landscape (1990). Accordingly, correct strategic responses in advertising and space management were (calculation weights in parenthesis):

Year/ assumed response

Advertising

Food store format(s)

1960

Informative (all)

Service store

1970

Price-advertising (all)

Self-service

1980

Price-advertising (all)

Big supermarket (3); hypermarket (2); small supermarket (1)

1990

Half-and full-page advertisements with two or more colors

Hypermarket (2); big supermarket (1)

  • 48 Mason 1987; Batra 1996.
  • 49 Y. Virkola, Suomalainen mainonta elintarvikemainonnan näkökulmasta. Helsinki, Kuluttajatutkimuskesk (...)

27Anybody, who is familiar with elementary marketing management models, knows that advertising and store structure are only two variables out of many.48 However, my perspective is that on the one hand, presence in the “right” store segments reflects well organizations' resources and willingness to act according to their information about retail development in United States as well as in other industrial countries. On the other hand, advertising volume is a good variable to measure both resources and aggressiveness against competition. Moreover, because of the oligopolistic market situation, majority of food advertising was channeled through grocery chains. Thus, grocery advertising has been much more important marketing variable in Finland than in for example in United States or England.49 Advertising and store management are also most important variables front the viewpoint of top executives and store-keepers: in that sense the choice of variables follows industry logic in retail sector.

  • 50 Batra 1996; Pollay 1996.

28The idea in share of voice thinking in this paper is that an organization should at least have matched its' market share in advertising in order to maintain its' competitive position or gain more.50 Consequently, firm's presence in different store formats can be interpreted through the same logic. Together, these two variables give possibilities for systematic reading of strategic responses in Finnish retail companies.

Picture 3: Strategic position in advertising and store-types in 1960 and 1970. Helsingin 1945-1995; Keskisuomalainen 1945-1996; AC 1963-1996

  • 51 A&O 1958-1973; A&O 1963-1973, Annual marketing plans. A & O, Central Archives for Finnish Business (...)

29In 1960, when environment was still relatively stable, all companies were in same situation (picture 3): they had parallel share of voice and space in comparison to their market share. During the next ten years, Kesko was able to get the first-comer advantage in retail markets. In 1970, it was well presented in self-service stores, but its share of advertising was below the market share. TUKO's biggest problem was the high mortality rate among country-stores and small urban service stores. This problematized the position of many smaller wholesalers, but usually wholesalers were not willing to exit before the actual danger of bankruptcy. Consequently, slowly dying Wholesale companies demanded both financial and managerial resources from TUKO. Beside of the problems in wholesaling, TUKO's grocery trade was divided to three chains (A & O, Spar, T & R) and to “wild” stores that had contractual relations with wholesalers, but usually no marketing co-operation. Hence, TUKO-group consumed heavily to advertising (almost 50 precent of all volume in 1970), but the effects were modest at best because of the fragmented brand image.51

  • 52 Perko 1979.

30Both co-operatives suffered heavily during 1960s, but for different reasons. SOK's biggest problem was that it has strongest position in rural areas that were emptying out of customers with accelerating pace. As a diversified company, slowing demand in retail sector affected all parts of the supply-chain, and SOK was in a classic strategic trap with “wrong” customer segment. The most important move for the future urbanization of the company were investments to the down-town warehouses.52

  • 53 Kallenautio 1992.

31For various reasons, OTK missed first years of the opportunity window. First, it tried to get advantage in non-food retailing although the trend towards self-service and price-competition in more developed countries was well known. Secondly, it suffered for it's own industrial production: some products were for example, packaged for service trade and were not suitable for self-service. More serious problem was the lack of quality and attractiveness of its' own products: many times they were not at the same level as competing products. Consequently, the diversified form harmed company's competitive position similarly as in SOK — but for totally different reasons.53

Picture 4: Strategie position in advertising and store-types in 1980 and 1990. Helsingin 1945-1995; Keskisuomalainen 1945-1996; AC 1963-1996

32In 1980, TUKO's inability to channel resources to new — more expensive — store forms and advertising had made it under-advertiser and — store-builder. The biggest strategic problem was that TUKO was unable to build big supermarkets and hypermarkets. TUKO 1942-1995; TUKO 1973-1982 After ten years, TUKO's competitive and economic position was so seriously weakened that it had no possibility to challenge Kesko or SOK.

33Kesko's position in supermarkets was still strong in 1980 and 1990, but the biggest difference in comparison to SOK, was on the one hand, the number of hypermarkets. On the other hand, Kesko had more smaller units that were good for sales, but bad for future success. Consequently, Kesko was still strong in sales, but it's position had been weakened by the aggressive performance of SOK.

  • 54 Koistinen 1997.

34SOK's turn-around from rural conglomerate to an efficient retailer was a surprise for it's competitors: top executives in TUKO and Kesko waited SOK's bankruptcy for the whole 1980s. During this decade, SOK, however, urbanized, commercialized and computerized. As a consequence, it was a top performer in the early 1990s with “right” store structure and aggressive advertising strategy.54

  • 55 A. Mounsky, “Sanding down the edges: Paradoxical impediments to organizational change”. The journal (...)
  • 56 Kallenautio 1992.

35OTK's strategic problems from 1960s, remained in 1970-1980s: compromises in strategic moves, emphasis on own industrial production and political tensions between top executives and local co-operatives “sanded the edges” of re-organization attempts.55 It is characteristics that in the official history of OTK, old managers explain how “they did everything wrong”: in discount stores, emphasis was in services, and in many areas, customers were unable to know the difference between different concepts.56

EXPLANATION

  • 57 B. Nooteboom, “Innovation, learning and industrial organization”. Cambrigde journal of Economics 23 (...)
  • 58 Hoffman 1990.

36It is obvious that Kesko was able to exploit the opportunity window because it had the most flexible organizational structure. First, it was a combination of independent retailers and rather light central administrative body. Thus, it's structure had many similarities with modem network-based organizational structures. From this perspective, Kesko's flexibility suits well Nooteboom's argument that loosely coupled networks are more able to create radical innovations than tightly coupled Systems.57 Secondly, retailers had a strong economic incentive to be both flexible with the change and with Kesko's organizational strategy: what was good for them was good for the company and vice versa. Thirdly, Kesko had never adapted the culture of Wholesale business, but rather wholesaling in Kesko was serving retail business already before environmental change forced other companies to focus on retailing.58

37Kesko's success in 1960-1980s can be seen as a logical consequence of it's right structure for dynamic retail competition. The other companies, however, make a more interesting case from the viewpoint of organizational ecology. They obviously had in-flexible “wrong” organizational structures that made TUKO and OTK to demise in the early 1990s, and that forced SOK to a very expensive and painful turn-around in 1980s.

Table 2: Influence of external and internal pressure toward organizational inertia

Table 2: Influence of external and internal pressure toward organizational inertia

Abbreviations: 00000

  • 59 Perko 1979; Kallenautio 1992.

38Freeman and Hannan's typology of different pressures toward organizational inertia is relatively figurative in helping to analyze causes for organizational in-flexibility. Of external pressures, the members of co-operatives were a focal stakeholder group that delayed strategic responses. Top executives of both SOK and OTK for example admitted later that they were unable to make radical moves such as massive store closings.59 SOK's situation was easier because it had to urbanize simultaneously with it's members. On the contrary, OTK's many times politically active members were not equally tolerant toward rationalization attempts: in fact, most of the needed managerial responses were against socialistic ideas and principles that were the hard ideological core of OTK. In TUKO the need for external legitimacy was most crucial in small rural towns, in which the wholesalers had important roles not only as business-men, but as members of the community as well. In those circumstances, exit from the traditional business was not an easy task.

39Of internal pressures, sunk costs were biggest in diversified cooperatives, and actually OTK was never able to divest it's industrial production, being one of the last conglomerates in Finland. On the contrary, SOK sold it's industrial production during the 1980s and was able to strengthen it's position in retail business instead. It is clear that SOK's active participation in many businesses slowed it's response to the first stimulus wave in 1960s. Nevertheless, my point of view is that sunk costs as such cannot explain organizational demise: portfolio management and other managerial techniques have been in active use in all industries despite sunk costs.

40It is more accurate to posit that sunk costs are the reflection of deeper intra-organizational pressures: politics and historical path dependencies. Thus, the most important factor toward organizational inertia in Finnish retail companies was intra-organizational path-dependencies, including informal rule settings, political processes and other forms of institutional influence. Even Kesko had to face these kind of robust forces, when it started to change it's organizational strategy toward a more centralized structure in 1990s.

  • 60 March 1989; March 1994.

41James March's conceptual framework about rule-following decision-making is useful in order to create deeper understanding about the importance of institutional elements in organizational decision-making.60 My claim is that the rule-following behavior may explain major part of organizational inertias, and thus it gives possibilities to understand the inside of events — the real matter in historical analysis.

  • 61 March 1989; March 1994.

42March's basic argument is that decision-making is a result from rule following and fulfilling identities. Central concept is the appropriateness of decision-making: actors follow procedures that they see as appropriate to the situation in which they find themselves. Organizational rules define what it means to be an appropriate decision-maker. The logic of appropriateness is built on three crucial questions that are crucial for my analysis as well.61 Hence, following answers are interpretations of the past, and simultaneously they summarize crucial intra-organizational forces that slowed or allowed strategic responses in environmental change:

43Rule-following perspective shows very clearly that in all organizations, the success or failure to adapt with the new, competitive environment was dependent on both the organizational structure and on the formal and informal rule-setting.

  • 62 Tuko 1973-1982.

44We can conclude the discussion about the importance of rules with a comment given in the TUKO's strategic meeting in 1977. When top management team explained what they should do to challenge Kesko (to focus on large-scale retailing), one of the wholesalers commented: “we all know that we should do that — but we cannot because we are not Kesko we are a Wholesale company”.62

CONCLUSIONS

45The purpose of this study was to analyze strategic responses of Finnish retail companies during a major environmental change in 1960-1990s. Thus, the focus was on the content of change. The intellectual perspective to mostly qualitative analysis was adapted from organizational ecology. My research strategy was to analyze the process of change in four major retail companies (TUKO, Kesko, SOK, OTK) using narrative and descriptive quantitative methods.

46Finland was modernized from a rural to urban society in less than thirty years. Nevertheless, a crucial starting point to understand the difficulties to adjust businesses to the new dynamic environment is that the opportunity window was open only ten or fifteen years tolerantly from 1960 to 1975. The official policy of Finnish Government in 1950s was to maintain the regulative System as long as possible and this catalyzed the change process, and shortened the reaction time in retail companies. For these reasons, Kesko, having a natural fit with the new situation, was able to build a dominant position in grocery business.

47All other companies had difficulties to respond to the environmental stimulus. TUKO's owners wanted to maintain the company's focus in wholesaling. In TUKO, the situation was a classic example of the relative inertia thesis: top management team was well aware about “correct” strategic decisions, but for strong internal pressures, they were unable to implement their strategic plans to challenge Kesko's position. In a way, TUKO made a suicide rather than it was killed by it's environment. The Wholesale culture was simply too strongly imbedded to the organization, and focal actors at least half-consciously refused to match competitors moves in hypermarkets and other key arenas.

48Both co-operatives faced challenges that were even more difficult because they had engaged to the industrial production. OTK remained as a socialistic conglomerate until it's demise in the early 1990s: it was clearly killed by its environment and competitors. SOK, however, is an example that strategic reorganization is possible although it would create huge sunk costs. SOK's turnaround project in 1980s was a textbook example how a firm can divest even it’s core production facilities without organizational mortality. My claim was that SOK's core structure was finally in co-operative ideology instead of diversified form of business.

49Hence, it is noteworthy that all organizations maintained their core structure during the period of change. TUKO died because it remained in Wholesale ideology, OTK was conglomerate until the end, Kesko focused to retailing, and SOK survived because it's co-operative mission.

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Notes

1 A.D. Chandler Jr., Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise. Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 1962; A.D. Chandler Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1977.

2 H. Mintzberc, J.A. Waters, “Tracking Strategy in an Entrepreneurial Firm”, Academy of Management journal 25 (3), 1982, p. 465-499.

3 N. Home, Vähittäiskaupan rakennemuutos 1950-luvulta 1980-luvulle. Helsinki, Helsingin kauppakorkeakoulu, 1977; H. Mäkinen, Evoluutio vai revoluutio elintarvikkeiden markkinointijärjestelmissä vuosina 1948-1976. Teoreettinen ja empürinen mnutosanalyysi, Turku, 1982; K.K. Hoffman, Kesko 1940-1990, Jyväskylä, Kauppiaiden kustannus, 1990; R. Hjerppe, Finland's Historical National Accounts 1860-1994: Calculation Methods and Statistical Tables. Jyväskylä, 1996.

4 TUKO 1945-1981, Minutes of the board. TUKO, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli; TUKO 1951-1977, Correspendence of CEOS. Tuko, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli; A&O 1958-1973, Annual Reports. A & O, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli; TUKO 1984, Kolme porrasta tulevaisuuteen. Jyvàskylà; Hoffman 1990; J. Kallenautio, Eka Suomessa: 128 osuusliikkeestä monialayhtymäksi. Hämeenlinna. 1992.

5 Chandler 1977; J.M. Mayo, The American Grocery Store: The Business Evolution of an Architectural Space. Westport, CO, Greenwood Press, 1993.

6 E. Pihkala, “Kotimaankauppa ja muut palvelut”. Suomen taloushistoria II. Helsinki, 1982.

7 Chandler 1977; B. Mason, M.L. Mayer, Modem Retailing. Theory and Practise. Piano, Texas, 1987; Mayo 1993.

8 P. Selznick, Leadership in Administration: A Socilogical Interpretation. New York, Harper & Row, 1957; R.M. Cyert, J.G. March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm. Englewood Cliffs, (N. J.), Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1963; J.G. March, H. Simon, Organizations. New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1963; H. A. Simon, “Strategy and organizational evolution”, Strategic Management journal 14, Winter, 1993, p. 131-142; M. Porter, “What is strategy?” Harvard Business Review, November-December, 1996; H. Mintzberg, B. Ahlstrand, J. Lampee, Strategy Safari: A guided tour through the wilds of strategic management. New York, The Free Press. 1998.

9 Simon 1993.

10 G.E. Ledford, S.A. Mohrman, A. Mohrman, E.E. Lawler, The Phenomenon of Large-Scale Organizational Change. Large-Scale Organizational Change. A. M. e. a. Mohrman. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Publishers. 1989.

11 M.T. Hannan, F.J. Hannan, “The population ecology of organizations”. American Journal of Sociology 82, 1977, p. 929-964; M.T. Hannan, F.J. Hannan, “Structural inertia and organizational change”. American Sociological Review, vol. 49, 1984, p. 149-164; M.T. Hannan, J. Freeman, Organizational Ecology. Cambrigde, (MA), Harvard University Press, 1989.

12 Hannan 1989.

13 R. Batra, J. Myers, D. Aaker, Advertising Management. Upper Saddle River, (N.J.), Prentice Hall Inc, 1996.

14 R.W. Pollay, S. Siddarth., M. Sieger, A. Haddix, “The last straw? Cigarette avertising and realized market shares among youths and adults, 1979-1993”, Journal of Marketing 60 (2), 1996.

15 K. Koistinen j., V. Risto, Päivittäistavarakaupan rakenne ja keskittyminen, Helsinki, Kuluttajatutkimuskeskus, 1997; O. Uusitalo, Consumer Perceptions of Crocery Stores. Jyväskylä, University of Jyvaskyla, 1998.

16 Hannan 1989.

17 A. Strauss, “The Hospital and It's Negotiated Order”. The Hospital in Modem Society. E. Freidson. New York, Free Press, 1963; A. Strauss, Negotiations. San Fransisco, Jossey-Bass, 1978; J.G. March, J.P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Basis of Politics. New York, Free Press, 1989; J.G. March, A Primer on Decision Making How Decisions Happen. New York, The Free Press, 1994.

18 R. Burgelman, “Strategy-Making and Organizational Ecology: A Conceptual Integration”. Organizational Evolution: New Directions. J. V. Singh. Newbury Park, SAGE, 1990.

19 A. Langley, “Strategies for theorizing from process data”. Academy of Management Review 24 (4), 1999, p. 691-710.

20 March 1989; D.C. North, Institutions, institutional change, and economic performance. Cambridge; (N.Y.), Cambridge University Press, 1990.

21 B.R. Golden, “The past is the past-or is it? The use of retrospective accounts as indicators of past strategy”. Academy of Management Journal 35 (4), 1992, p. 848-860.

22 Home 1977; Mäkinen 1982.

23 M. Lehti, The formation of resource allocation strategy of the firm and the underlyin gperformance related mechanisms: An empirical study of Finnish consumergoods trade. Helsinki, The Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration, 1990; J. Peltoniemi, Yritysten strateginen käyttäytyminen; Teoreettisen tarkeastelukehyksen rakentaminen ja soveltaminen kaupan ryhmittymien kilpailuun. Vaasa, Vaasan yliopisto, 1993.

24 Uusitalo 1998.

25 T. Perko, Yhdessa enemmän: SOK 1904-1979. Helsinki, SOK, 1979; Hoffman 1990; Kallenautio 1992.

26 N. Home, Kyläkaupasta supermarketiin. Vähittäiskaupan sopeutuminen yhteiskunnan rakennemuutokseen vuosina 1952-1972. Helsinki, Helsingin kauppakorkeakoulu, 1989.

27 Hoffman 1990; Lehti 1990; Uusitalo 1998.

28 Mäkinen 1982; Home 1989.

29 P. Mathias, Retailing Revolution. London, 1967; Chandler 1977; Mintzberg 1982; A.D. Chandler, Scale and Scope: The Dynamics of Industrial Capitalism. Cambridge, (MA), Harvard University Press, 1990; Mayo 1993.

30 Koistinen 1997; Uusitalo 1998.

31 Home 1989.

32 Hjerppe 1996.

33 Lehti 1990.

34 Hoffman 1990.

35 Pihkala 1982.

36 Tuko 1984; Home 1989; Hoffman 1990.

37 Perko 1979.

38 Hoffman 1990.

39 Tuko 1984.

40 Tuko 1945-1981; Tuko 1951-1977; Tuko 1973-1982, Minutes of bi-annual marketing meetings. Tuko, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli..

41 Tuko 1942-1995, Annual Reports. Tuko, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli.; Tuko 1951-1977; Tuko 1984.

42 H. Mintzberg, Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations. New York, The Free Press, 1989.

43 Hoffman 1990.

44 Mintzberg 1989.

45 Perko 1979; Kallenautio 1992; Uusitalo 1998.

46 Peltoniemi 1993; B.S. Silverman, J.A. Nickerson, J. Freeman, “Profitability, transactional alignment, and rganizational mortality in the U.S. trucking industry”. Strategic Management Journal 18 (Special Issue), 1997.

47 Kallenautio 1992.

48 Mason 1987; Batra 1996.

49 Y. Virkola, Suomalainen mainonta elintarvikemainonnan näkökulmasta. Helsinki, Kuluttajatutkimuskeskus, 1993.

50 Batra 1996; Pollay 1996.

51 A&O 1958-1973; A&O 1963-1973, Annual marketing plans. A & O, Central Archives for Finnish Business Records. Mikkeli; Tuko 1973-1982.

52 Perko 1979.

53 Kallenautio 1992.

54 Koistinen 1997.

55 A. Mounsky, “Sanding down the edges: Paradoxical impediments to organizational change”. The journal of Applied Behavioral Science 35 (1), 1999, p. 8-24.

56 Kallenautio 1992.

57 B. Nooteboom, “Innovation, learning and industrial organization”. Cambrigde journal of Economics 23 (2), 1999, p. 127-150.

58 Hoffman 1990.

59 Perko 1979; Kallenautio 1992.

60 March 1989; March 1994.

61 March 1989; March 1994.

62 Tuko 1973-1982.

Table des illustrations

URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-1.jpg
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Légende Picture 1: Environmental change in Finnish retail industry 1950-2000
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-2.jpg
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URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-3.jpg
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Titre Picture 2: Finnish grocery markets 1960-2000 Note: 1960-1970 interpolated linearly. AC Nielsen 1971-2000; PERKO 1980.
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-4.jpg
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Titre Table 1: Cumulative economic performance of Finnish retail companies 1970-1990s. 1995 Millions. Finnish markka's and per cents.
Légende Sources: RICA 1942-1995; KESKO 1942-1995; SOK 1942-1995; TUKO 1942-1995
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-5.jpg
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Légende Picture 3: Strategic position in advertising and store-types in 1960 and 1970. Helsingin 1945-1995; Keskisuomalainen 1945-1996; AC 1963-1996
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-6.jpg
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Légende Picture 4: Strategie position in advertising and store-types in 1980 and 1990. Helsingin 1945-1995; Keskisuomalainen 1945-1996; AC 1963-1996
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-7.jpg
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Titre Table 2: Influence of external and internal pressure toward organizational inertia
Légende Abbreviations: 00000
URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-8.jpg
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URL http://books.openedition.org/irhis/docannexe/image/1913/img-9.jpg
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