Fully Funded ESRC PhD on Scottish convenience store retailing; understanding local impacts and cost drivers to enhance performance
Last week I had one of those great emails, bringing good news. I had been successful again in the ESRC Scottish Graduate School for the Social Sciences Collaborative Studentship Competition. This time the collaboration is with the Scottish Grocers Federation.
The Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) is the national trade association for the convenience store industry in Scotland. It is the authoritative voice for the industry to both policy makers and the media. It is thus a membership based trade organisation representing thousands of small convenience store operators. The SGF brings together retailers throughout Scotland, from most of the Scottish Co-operative, SPAR, Nisa, Keystore, Costcutter, Martin McColl, Premier, Day Todays and local independents. SGF members provide a wide selection of products and services throughout Scotland’s cities, local town centre, rural and island communities. There are just over 5,500 convenience stores throughout Scotland, with annual sales in excess of £3.7 billion. The sector directly employs over 42,000 people (ACS/SGF 2015). Each independent convenience store also reinvests hundreds of thousands of pounds each year back into the local economy by providing local jobs, using local services and local suppliers. SGF promotes responsible community retailing and works with the Government and the media to encourage a greater understanding of the contribution convenience retailers make to Scotland’s communities.
The Institute for Retail Studies at the University of Stirling has worked with the SGF for a number of years, but this relationship has deepened over the last two years. In early 2015, a small sample of SGF members allowed summary access to their finances and operations to assess what the potential impact of their stores on the local economy was. Some of this “proof of concept” work was reported at a SGF seminar and demonstrated both the scale of the potential impacts, but also the issues in developing a robust set of measures and consistency in coverage (see https://stirlingretail.com/2015/03/31/local-convenience-stores-in-a-challenging-retail-environment/)
There has been a long standing view that local stores provide more benefits for the local economy and community due to their business practices which are more embedded in the local “space”. However, evidence has been largely anecdotal and not subject to rigorous systematic academic approaches and analysis. Rectifying this is the first objective of this PhD. Local stores however are also less resilient, than are larger often national businesses, to costs and other pressures. Understanding the cost drivers and pressures on local convenience stores and the impact of potential changes to these is the second objective of the PhD work.
Using the links between the University of Stirling and the SGF and the interest of SGF members in helping provide a better understanding of their sector and its impacts and pressures, this PhD project will develop new understandings and tools to inform the sector itself, policy makers and others. This project also generates new academic understanding and measurement of these issues, which are important for business and competition reasons.
And thus to the main point of this blog post. We will be looking for an excellent PhD student to take on the project. You will need to have a relevant accredited Masters degree and an interest in understanding retail change and operations.
Formal applications are not yet open, but if you want to discuss the opportunity informally then please drop me an email or give me a ring. Full details and the formal application process will be announced in due course, but contacting me now will register your interest in learning more.