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Export strategies are tools through which companies can respond to the mutual effects of the internal and external factors for obtaining their export goals. Despite the accumulated efforts of academic, specialist’s, researchers and public policy instruments in the Nigerian economies, progressively geared to actively internationalize the SMEs’ and compete in foreign markets, international market penetration remains a major challenge for most SMEs’ in Nigeria and the expected effects of export strategies on small and medium sized firms  performance remain unanswered. Consequently, this study examined the influence of export strategies on the performance of small and medium sized manufacturing firms in Lagos state, Nigeria.

A survey research design was adopted for the study. The population of study comprised 514 middle level managers ofsmall and medium sized firms in Lagos state, that are registered in the export group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. The Cochran formula was used to arrive at a sample size of 316. A structured questionnaire was used to generate data. The questionnaire which was partly developed and partly adapted was validated with Cronbach’s Alpha reliability co-efficient for major constructs of the variables yielding between 0.815 and 0.941 respectively. A response rate of 77% was obtained. The data were analysed using descriptive, correlation and regression analysis.

Findings revealed that there was a significant positive effect of export strategies on SMEs’ sales performance  = 0.899, p = 0.000). Export strategies had a significant positive effect on SMEs’ growth performance. ( = 0.873,p = 0.000). Export strategies had a positive and strong significant effect on SMEs’ customer performance( = 0.891,p = 0.000) and export strategies was significantly and positively related to SMEs’ performance in Lagos state.                             (r = 0.712   p = 0.000). Also, there is strong positive significant moderating effect of export experience and educational level of managers on the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’ performance.  (  = 0.863, p = 0.000< 0.05)

It was concluded that export strategies influences SMEs’ performance in Lagos state, Nigeria. The study therefore  recommended that small and medium sized firms in the manufacturing industry of Lagos state, should adopts export strategies such as direct exportation , joint ventures, strategic alliance and licencing when approaching the international market for business expansion.


Keywords:Export Strategies, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, Manufacturing Firms  .    .Sales Performance, Growth Performance, Customer Performance,                                  .                          Direct Exportation, Strategic Alliance, Licensing, Joint Ventures


Word Count:491



Content                                                                                                                                 Page Title page                                                                                                                                  i

Certification                                                                                                                              ii

Dedication                                                                                                                                iii

Acknowledgements                                                                                                                  iv

Abstracts                                                                                                                                    v

Table of Contents                                                                                                                     vi

List of Tables                                                                                                                           vii

List of Figures                                                                                                                         viii



  • Background to the study                                                                                         1
  • Statement of the Problem 3
  • Objectives of the Study      5
  • Research Questions 5
  • Hypotheses       6
  • Scope of the study 6
  • Significance of the Study 6
  • Operationalization of Variables                                                                           7
  • Operational Definition of Terms                                          8



2.1 Conceptual Review                                                                                                     10

2.1.1 Exporting                                                                                                                   10

2.1.2   Export Strategies                                                                                                       17 Export Modes                                                                                              22 Direct Export Modes                                                                                                 28 Licencing                                                                                                                   30

Content                                                                                                                                 Page   Joint Venture                                                                                                           32   Strategic Alliance                                                                                                    34   Export Strategy in Nigeria                                                                                      36

2.1.3    Export Performance                                                                                                38

.1.3.1    Customer Performance                                                                                            40    Growth Performance                                                                                               41    Sales Performance                                                                                                   41

2.1.4       Export Knowledge                                                                                                  42

2.1.5       Export Experience                                                                                                   43

2.2   Theoretical Review                                                                                                  44

2.2.1     Theories of Internationalisation                                                                                44 The Uppsala Internationalisation Model                                                                 44 Transaction Cost Analysis (TCA)                                                                           45  The Eclectic Paradigm                                                                                             47

2.2.2 Resource Dependency Theory                                                                                48

2.3           Empirical Review                                                                                                    51

2.4   Summary / Gap in Literature                                                                                   71

2.4.1        Summary of Literature                                                                                            71

2.4.2   Gaps in Literature                                                                                         71

2.5    Conceptual Model                                                                      83



3.0          Introduction                                                                                                               84

3.1Research Designs                                                                                                      84

3.2Population                                                                                                                 85

3.3          Sample Size and Sampling Technique                                                                      87

3.4 Method of Data collection                                                                                         88

3.5Research Instrument                                                                                                  89

3.5.1       The Questionnaire                                                                                                     89

3.6 Pilot Study                                                                                                                 90


Content                                                                                                                                Page

3.7 Validity and Reliability of Research Instrument.                                                      90

3.7.1    Validity of the Research Instrument                                                                          90

3.7.2 Reliability of the Research Instrument                                                                     91

3.8 Method of Data Analysis                                                                                          92

3.8.1 Model Specification                                                                                                    93

3.8.2 Research Model                                                                                                          94

3.8.3Apriori Expectation                                                                                                    95

3.9   Limitation of the Methodology Used                                                                         95

3.10Ethical Consideration                                                                               96





4.0     Introduction                                                                                                                    97

4.1     Respondents Response Rate                                                                                           97

4.2Analysis of Socio-demographic Characteristics of Respondents                            98

4.3Descriptive Analysis of Respondents                                                                                100

4.4     Effect of Export Strategies on SMEs’ Sales Performance                                           114

4.5     Effect of Export Strategies on SMEs’ Growth Performance                                     119

4.6     Effect of Export Strategies on SMEs’ Customer Performance                                  124

4.7    Relationship between Export Strategies and SMEs’ Performance                            128

4.8    The Moderating Effect of Export Experience and Educational Level of

Managers on the Relationship between Export Strategies and SMEs’

Performance                                                                                                                  132


4.9   Summary of Hypothesis                                                                                                 137





5.0Introduction                                                                                                                138

  • Summary                                                                                                                     138
  • Conclusion                                                                                                                  140
  • Recommendations                                                                                                      140

Content                                                                                                                                 Page


  • Implication of the Findings                                                                                       142
    • International Business Practice 142
    • Small and Medium Scale Enterprises 142
    • Implication for Manufacturing Industry 143
    • Implication for Government Policy Makers                              143
  • Contribution to Knowledge 143
    • Conceptual Knowledge                                              143
    • Theoretical Knowledge 144
    • Empirical Knowledge                            144
  • Limitation of the study                                                                                               145
    • Methodology                         145
    • Findings 145

5.7      Suggestion for Further Studies                                                                                   145

References                                                                                                                  146

Questionnaire                                                                                                              151


Table                                                                                                                                     Page

2.4.1    Summary of Literature Review                                                                                72

3.2       SMEs’ Registered in MAN Export Group                                                 86

3.3:     Cronbach’s Alpha for the Study Variables                                                                92

3.4      Apriori Expectation                                                                                                   95

4.2.1: Distribution of the Respondents Demographic Information                                     98

4.3.1:   Descriptive Analysis of Respondent’s Opinion on Direct Exportation                   100

4.3.2   Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Strategic Alliance                         102

4.3.3 Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Licensing                                        104

4.3.4   Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Joint Ventures                              106

4.3.5    Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Sales Performance                        108

4.3.6    Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Growth Performance                    110

4.3.7    Descriptive analysis of respondent’s opinion on Customer Performance                 112

4.4       Regression Model of Export Strategies and SME’s Sales Performance            114

4.5       Regression Model of Export Strategies and SME’s Growth Performance         119

4.6       Regression Model of Export Strategies and SME’s Customer Performance      124

4.7.1Regression Model of Export Strategies and SME’s Performance                                128

4.7.2 Pearson product moment correlationof export strategies and SMEs’

Performance                                                                                                         129

4.8Model Summary of Combined Moderating Effect of Export

Experience and Educational Level of Managers on the Relationship

between Export Strategies and SMEs’ Performance in Lagos state, Nigeria.          132


4.9Summary of Hypothesis Tested                                                                           137



Figure                                                                                                                                          Page

2.1:  Conceptual Research Model                                                                                               83

3.1 Conceptual Research Model                                                                                                  94




  • Background to the Study

International trade and sales activities in the world has gradually expanded the market boundaries within which a firm operates irrespective of its scale or target market. Exporting businessactivities is progressively seen as a prospect for corporate growth, expansion and improved profitability among small and medium scaled firms in various industries (Amira, 2006). Whorapot (2009) assert that exporting has traditionally been the most common approach of international market access, chosen exclusively by small and medium-sized firms. It tends to be associated with less risk, minimal financial, human, and other resource commitments; exporting is a feasible means of global engrossment for the small and medium scale enterprises (Levi, Martin & Justus, 2010).


Internationalization procedure of many small and medium sized (SMEs) firms in Nigeria is still in the primitive stages, with exporting being the prominent mode of their foreign market involvement ( John & Nicholas, 2007). Over the years, the participation of small & medium scale enterprises in the international market has extensively been under scrutiny. This powerful inspection has been against the backdrop of stumpy performance and competitiveness in exportation that characterised small and medium scale enterprises predominantly in evaluating its role in international business and foreign market participation. The export market has become more of a matter of endurance than choice for many small and medium sized firms (Odularu, 2010).Firms that seek to participate in the international markets employ specific strategies to attract international buyers of their goods. The competitive strategies adopted by firms comprise of productivity strategy, export strategy, follower strategy and differentiation strategy (Odularu, 2010). Export strategy is the most adopted foreign market penetration strategy by small and medium sized firms(Levi, Martin & Justus, 2010).

Export strategy is a tool through which companies can respond to the mutual effects of the internal and external factors for obtaining their export goals.It requires low resources, low exposure to business risks, and high strategic flexibility. Small and medium sized Firms within a certain industry adopt different export strategies and the strategies adopted influence the firm’s growth and performance (Amira, 2006).Smile & Danile (2014)assert that adopting the right export strategy is presumed to be a success factor for the SMEs’ in the International markets.


Davide & Erdal (2012) affirmed that the business managers are responsible for making decisions thatform the essential features of their firms’ exporting strategy development and implementation in terms of strategy selection, market segmentation, period of exporting, export market selection, degree of export dependence, designing and execution of export strategies in order to overcome a perceived impediment to exporting and attempt to maximise export objective function. Smile & Danile (2014)had earlier affirmedthat international experience and entrepreneur orientation of owner/manager of business plays a key role in their firms’ export strategies development and firms’ export performance. Theirmanagerial judgment consequently determines the performance of firms in the international market.


Export strategies in Nigeria remain unclear for the SMEs’ and their international business performance remains less than satisfactory in light of the potential such firms hold                     (John & Nicholas, 2007). Over the years, the Nigerian government have devised and implemented a number of export strategies and polices to foster SMEs’ export involvement, competitiveness, corporate growth and performance level in the international market.In 1976, The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) was vested with a major role for export development and promotion strategy. In 1991, The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) was established under the Structural Adjustment Program as an Export Credit Agency to promote export Trade (Isaac, 2012).Despite the public policy instruments in the Nigerian economies, progressively geared to actively internationalize the SMEs’  and compete in foreign markets, international market penetration remains a major challenge for most SMEs’  in Nigeria. There is a high percentage of SMEs’ in Nigeria that remains small without realizing their growth potentials or appropriate strategies for international market penetration (Isaac, 2012).



  • Statement of the Problem


The strategies adopted by most SMEs’ and their managerial judgement in the formation of their export business activities has remained ineffective without yielding the expected multiplying effects on the performance of SMEs’ in the international market.Most SMEs’ do not seek for or acquire adequate information and knowledge about foreign markets and how to manage foreign activities while formulating their exporting strategies (Mwebaze & Hisali, 2013). This has really hampered the export involvement, competitiveness, performance level and corporate growth of the SMEs’. The exportation portion of these companies against their production is low with overall poor export performance(Tongesai & Shylet, 2013).


SMEs’ are characterized with repeated inabilities to effectively respondto the frequent changes in consumer preferences and innovation development due to their smallness nature. Hence, some SMEs’ pursue an agreement with other firms as a strategy to complement their weaknesses in terms of sharing resources to earn a competitive advantage and achieve common objectives (Amira, 2006). Often, the cooperative agreement between the firms is also associated with uncertainty regarding a partner future behavior and the absence of superior authority to ascertain compliance, poor stability with overall poor performance which later results into collapse of the formed partnership (Rosemary, 2007).


Huawei (2013) observed that the cooperative agreement and partnerships are associated with high failure rates because they neither achieved the parent companies goals or the common objective behind the motive of cooperation. There is a high rate of termination of cooperative agreements which later results into the destruction of shareholder value.Identifying the appropriate export strategies for international market entry remains a big obstacle for most small and medium sized firms in Nigeria. Most SMEs’ do not seek to participate in the international market for business expansion,while the potential exporters arediscouraged as a resultof non-availability of export business information and strategies for targeted countries (Mwebaze & Hisali, 2013).



Craig (2010) noted that being able to identify the successful or unsuccessful strategies for international market participation hasremained major challenge for most SMEs’. Although, firms in the same industry tends to adopt similar export strategies especially the one adopted by the leading firms. However, the performance and international market success of firms within the same industry tends to be unequal, as some firms are more successful than others in the export business despite the adoption of similar strategies. Davide & Erdal (2012) opines that the factors which influence firm’s internationalisation differ between companies and industries with specific hindrances and opportunities that requireunique export strategies. Potential exporters lack the knowledge of applying the appropriate export strategies for a particular market, industries and business model when approaching the international market.


Albert and Yuan (2006) contributes that the internationalization process is elongated and most SMEs do shorten or skip the necessary stages of this processes which later result into serious problems after some time. Often times, most small and medium sized firms neither inquires about the dynamism of the host market business environment, product specification requirement nor possesses the required skills and experience to identify business opportunities,  risk and strategy formulation before approaching  the international market. Their products are rejected in the host market after much commitment of resources due to their inability to meet the required standard and specifications by the leading customers in the host market (Jolanda & Siri, 2007).Tongesai & Shylet (2013) assert that small and medium sized firms are typically resource constrained, lacks the international market power, knowledge and resources to operate feasibly in the international markets. They lack the financial resources to pursue a market development strategy that requires direct foreign investment in the host countries.  Often, their exportation strategies option to compete in the global competitive landscape remains unclear and ineffective.


The competitive pressure in the manufacturing industries and frequent changes in the taste of leading customers to demands for high standard products in the host market has necessitated the frequent creation of new products. Hence, the small firms are weak in terms of insufficient infrastructural facilities, technology and financial resources to meet up to the demand and compete with large firms. This has resulted to the poor performance of small and medium sized firms in the international market (Candace & Thomas, 2012).


Jennifer(2010) opinesthat although small firms’ mostly from developing nation often times directly interface with host market potential customers, but their products are often rejected and sent back to the home country as a result of not meeting the client product specification and standards in addition to the fact that smallfirms have no representatives who can coordinate their export activities in the host market. Trust is another major concern for most clients in the host market and most of the leading potential customers are veryskeptical in doing business directly with small firms from developing nations (Isaac, 2012).




1.3Objective of the Study

The main objective of this study is to determine the relationship between export strategies and performance of small and medium scale enterprises in Lagos State, Nigeria.

The specific objectives are to:

  1. determine the effects of export strategies on SMEs’ sales performance;
  2. examine the effects of export strategies on SMEs’ growth performance;
  3. evaluate the effects of export strategies on SMEs’  customer performance;
  4. assess the relationship between export strategies andSMEs’  performance and
  5. determine the combined moderating effect of export experience and educational level of managers on the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’ performance.



  • Research Questions

The study answered the following questions:

  1. What is the effect of export strategies on SMEs’ Sales performance
  2. How does export strategies affectSMEs’ Growth performance
  3. What is the effect of export strategies on SMEs’ Customer performance
  4. What is the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’  performance
  5. How the effect of export experience and educational level of managers does moderates the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’ performance.
    • Hypotheses

: There is no significant effect of export strategies on SMEs’ sales performance

: There is no significant effect of export strategies on SMEs’ growth performance

: There is no significant effect of export strategies onSMEs’ customer performance

There is no significant relationship between export strategies and SMEs’ performance

There is no significant combined moderating effect of export experience and

educational level of managers on the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’




1.6 Scope of Study

The scope of the study examined the effect of export strategies onperformance of small &medium scale enterprises. The population for this study were the middle managers insmall and medium sized manufacturing firms in Lagos state, that are registeredin the export group directory of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.The justification of Lagos state is that, Lagos state represent major economic centre of the nation and over sixty percent of manufacturing firms in Nigeria are located in Lagos (MAN, 2016).


The sample frame for the study was limited to the middle managers of small and medium sized manufacturers registered in the export group directory of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in five selected local governments in Lagos state. The collected data were analysed using frequency distribution and percentages to analyse the respondents’ demographic characteristics and descriptive analysis such as mean and standard deviations to answer the research questions, while inferential statistical tool such as correlation analysis and regression analysis to determine the effects between dependent and independent variables.


  • Significance of the Study

The significance of this study examined the exact transmission mechanism through which export strategies have significant impact on performance of small and medium scale enterprises. Most literature rather focuses on the impact of export marketing strategy (product, price, place and promotion strategy) on the macroeconomic indicators such as foreign exchange, balance of payment, GDP, without looking at the strategies that impact the performance of SMEs’  in the international market.

Existing literature see’s lack of finance, low entrepreneurship skills& orientation, government policies among other problems as the major problems affecting the performance of small and medium  scale enterprises in the international market;whereas there is a superficial relationship between the export strategiesand the performance of small and medium scale enterprise.This study elaborates more than earlier works to properly examine the relationship between exportstrategies and the performance of SMEs in Lagos state, Nigeria.Furthermore, the study established the relationship between export strategies and SMEs’ performance. The result would facilitate to build better knowledge for international business managers to discover export strategies that would achieve international business objectives and enhance optimal firm’s performance. It will also benefitsowners of SMEs’, marketing & sales managers, business development executives andmanufacturing companies  to have access to comprehensive information on various export strategies  that can enhance firms performance in the international market and achieve export objectives.


  • Operationalization of Variables



The Operationalization of the research variables are presented below:



  1. Independent Variable

X = Export Strategies


  1. Dependent Variable

Y = Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Performance.


  1. Moderator Variables

Z = , )



= DE:  Direct Exportation

= SA: Strategic Alliance

= LI:  License

= JV: Joint Venture


= Sales Performance

= Growth Performance

= Customer Performance


= EPE: Export Experience of Managers

= ELM: Educational Level of Manager


Regression Models



Y= f (X)

Y = f (DE, SA, LI, JV)


= +   +  +  ……………………………..i

= +   +  +  …………………………….ii

= +   +  +  ……………………………iii

   Y= +   +  + ………………………………..iv

  Y= + …………………………………………….v


  • Operational Definition of Terms


Export Strategy: These are processes and policies adopted by a firm to strategically positioned itself to explore and maximise international business opportunities, minimization of risk towards the achievement of the organizational goal and international market success.


Direct Exportation:  This is a strategy adopted in which the firm directly undertake a full export activities to the host countriesDirect export entry approaches are preferred whenever a comparatively high capacity of exports is predictable; hence an advanced level of asset is required.


Strategic Alliance: This is a strategic relationship in form of simple licensing contracts amongst two associates, market (access)-based alliances, operations and logistics alliances, operations (shared production)-based alliances. Strategic alliance is made to pursue a common goal by both parties to pursue a common goal such as building a market position.


Licensing: This type of export strategy is based on a contractual relationship between the licensor and the licensee.  Licencing is a form of international market penetration mode which tends to involve an agreement between the licensor and the licensee.  It tends to be associated with low resource requirement and firms commitments Licencing is a substantial foreign market entry mode for a low risk international business relationships between the home and host countries firms.

Joint Venture: This is a supportive relationship between two or more firms. Joint ventures is a possession distribution system of business partnership which can involve parities from the within the domestic countries or from the host countries. It can also involve the government as a trading partner to form a joint venture for business participation in the international market.

Small & Medium Scale Enterprises: Ekpenyong (1992) classify SMEs’ as it varies between countries. In countries Such as: USA, Britain, and Canada; small and medium scale business is defined on the premise of yearly revenue and the total of salaried staffs. In Britain small scale business is well-defined with yearly income of £2.8 million or less and below 200 salaried staffs. The medium scale enterprise is defined with revenue of not more than £11.2 million; and not more than 250 staffs.In Nigeria, there is no clear-cut definition for small scale enterprises. The current national definition of SMES in Nigeria as advocated at the National Council on Industry (NCI) in 1996 and as quoted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 1997 is to classify small scale enterprises as those with entire cost with working capital inclusive but excluding cost of land above N1.0 million, but not more than N 40.0 million with number of employees between 11 and 35 workers. Medium Scale Enterprises are well-defined as those with total cost, comprising capital but excluding cost of land above N40.0 million but not exceeding N150.0 million with a labour size of between 36 and100 workers (Olowofeso, 2010; Ayozie, 2011).But for the purpose of this study, small scale enterprises are defined as those industries with total project cost (investment and working capital) not exceeding 100 million naira ( N100, 000,000) and not more than 100 employees and medium scale enterprise, not exceeding two hundred million naira (N 200,000,000) and not more than 200 employees.





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