Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Export Behavior of Small Swedish Firms

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Export Behavior of Small Swedish Firms

Article excerpt


The value of Swedish exports in 1984 was $26.7 billion, representing 27.3 percent of the gross domestic product. During 1977-1982, the average annual volume increase in exports was 3.52 percent, while the increase in total world trade was much higher. From 1975 to 1984, Sweden lost about one fifth of its export market share.1 In addition, exports from Sweden shifted significantly from raw materials to manufactured goods. Swedish exports of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods now make up 65 percent of total exports.

1 Svenska Arbetsgivareforeningen (SAF), Fakta om Sveriges Ekonomi (Stockholm: SAF and KREAB, 1985).

Increasing product quality and research and development activities, however, have helped Sweden to remain a market leader in a number of industrial goods areas. Unique technology, efficient management, and Sweden's non-allied political status have all helped Swedish firms to export successfully.

Most Swedish firms are located in metropolitan areas such as Stockholm and Gothenburg, and the larger firms have been widely studied.2 Knowledge about the export performance of Swedish firms operating in smaller provinces is very limited, however.

2 S. Carlson, Investment in Knowledge and Cost of Information (Uppsala: Acta Academia Regaiae Scientiarum Uppsaliensis, 1974); J. Johanson and F. Wiedersheim-Paul, "The Internationalization of the Firm: Four Swedish Cases,' The Journal of Management Studies (October 1975), pp. 305-321; P. N. Ghauri, Negotiating International Package Deals: Swedish Firms in Developing Countries (Stokholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1983); L. Hallen, Sverige p europamarknaden (Lund, Studentlitteratur, 1980); H. H kansson, ed., Industrial Marketing and Purchases in Europe (Chichester: Wiley, 1982).

This article analyzes the export orientation of small firms located in four Swedish provinces (Jonkoping, Kronobergs, Kalmar, and Blekinge). Export orientation denotes the extent to which management or the owner of a manufacturing firm is willing to be actively involved in marketing its products and services in a sustained manner.3 An attempt has also been made to assess the degree of internationalization in the firms from these regions and to point out differences which might exist among different sizes and types of manufacturers.

3 E. Kaynak and L. Stevenson, "A Canadian Study of Initial Export Sales Involvement by Manufacturers in One State,' Journal of Sales Management, vol. 1, no. 3 (1984), pp. 19-24.


The internationalism of the larger manufacturing firms has received significant research attention in Sweden during the last decade. A number of studies undertaken in Uppsala on the initial involvements of Swedish firms in overseas activities are discussed below.4

4 J. Johanson and J. E. Vahlne, "The Internationalization Process of the Firms: A Model of Knowledge and Development and Increasing Foreign Market Commitments,' Journal of International Business Studies (Spring/Summer 1977), pp. 23-32; F. Wiedersheim-Paul and L. Welch, "Pre-Export Activity: The First Step in Internationalization,' Journal of International Business Studies (Spring/Summer 1978), pp. 47-58; L. Welch and F. Wiedersheim-Paul, "Initial Exports--A Marketing Innovation,' British Journal of Marketing (Summer 1980), pp. 93-100.

It appears that initial involvement in overseas activities is a gradual process, taking place in incremental stages and over a relatively long period.5 The initial involvement in overseas trading can be regarded as an innovation within the closed environment of the firm,6 and it appears that export-related information is often a key factor in export expansion and the internationalization of the firm.7 Market intelligence is thus considered a key prerequisite to export entry and expansion.8 Finally, past studies have found that many manufacturing firms enter into exporting without deliberate planning and thorough analysis. …

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