Regional Australia is undergoing significant structural, economic, social, and environmental change which is impacting the viability of small businesses (Regional Australia Institute, 2018). Regional small retail businesses, estimated to contribute $21.9bn to local economies (Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, 2019) are particularly susceptible to economic shocks, have lower survival rates, more volatile revenues and are generally less resilient than larger business (Barraket, Eversole, Luke & Barth, 2019).
Disruptive external events such as the acceleration of e-retailing, COVID-19 travel restrictions, hard border closures, and the decline in ‘back-packer’ labour availability, have exposed an over-dependence on regional visitors to prop up local economies (Cohen, Stewart and Darby, 2020; Jiang and Wen, 2020; Sullivan, 2020). These factors combined have amplified the weaknesses already evident in regional Australia, hastening the need for research. Previous studies have consistently pointed to an inability of small business to adapt to changing market conditions or adopt innovative practices (Chang, Hughes and Hotho, 2011). This lack of core business knowledge and entrepreneurialism is regarded as the main causes of regional small business failure (Siemens, 2010).
Notwithstanding current research, efforts to develop, test and evaluate effective interventions that might stem the loss of small retail business within regional communities have been limited. The proposed research seeks to investigate (i) the internal and external factors that prevent regional small retail business from effectively responding to unplanned and disruptive external events and (ii) identify how evidenced based frameworks can be applied to evaluate and track the commercial health and resilience of regional small retail businesses.
Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (2019) Small Business Counts: Small business in the Australian Economy. Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 978-1-76051-716-8.
Australia Institute (2018). The indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality’. Submission to Australia Senate Standing Committees on Economics into the indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality in Australia, Regional Australia Institute, Barton. http://www.regionalaustralia.org.au/home/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/180503-RAI-The-indicatorsof-and-impact-of-regional-inequality-in-Australia.pdf
Barraket, J., Eversole, R., Luke, B., & Barth, S. (2019). Resourcefulness of locally oriented social enterprises: Implications for rural community development. Journal of Rural Studies, 70, 188-197.
Chang, Y. Y., Hughes, M., & Hotho, S. (2011). Internal and external antecedents of SMEs' innovation ambidexterity outcomes. Management Decision. 49(10), 1658-1676.
Siemens, L. (2010). Challenges, responses and available resources: Success in rural small businesses. Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, 23(1), 65-80.
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