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Communities of knowledge: entrepreneurship, innovation and networks in the British outdoor trade 1960-1990

Research output: Working paper

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Abstract

This article looks at the use of interpersonal and inter company networks in the British outdoor trade between 1960 and 1990. There is a growing body of management literature which highlights the significance of networks in the innovation process and in this article their significance and changing form are explored in an important but little studied consumer goods sector. From the 1960s to the 1990s changing leisure and consumption patterns stemming from rising living standards and greater mobility increased demand for a wide range of consumer goods. In Britain this was normally associated with rising imports. This article explores how and why the outdoor trade differed and the particular forces which led to the emergence of several internationally competitive companies, including Karrimor, Berghaus and Mountain Equipment. It shows that one of the principle underpinnings of the competitive advantage of these firms lay in the networks of the entrepreneurs who owned them. The article tracks the changing nature of networks from the strong ties of purely informal personal contact to the weaker but more powerful ties that came through trade shows and exhibitions and to more formal strategic alliances within the supply chain.