Knowledge Management for Retail Stores

A comparative study between Sainsbury and Tesco

Introduction To The Knowledge Management in retail stores:

Retail sector of United Kingdom is poised for explosive growth because of increasing competition and ever changing marketing environment. In order to create stronghold in retail sector of UK, they need to manage customer knowledge. The competition law in UK promotes healthy competition and restricts the industry players to create monopoly situations in market. The concept of knowledge management was arisen approximately two decades ago in 1990. In present era, KM can be seen as a discipline that promotes an integrated approach of identifying, approaching, analyzing, retrieving and sharing an enterprise’s entire information asset (Choo and, 2002). The information management within the organization assists in consulting the best practices to business for setting milestone in the industry in terms of customer satisfaction and increased profitability.

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Customer knowledge is seen as critical source for gaining competitive edge in retail sector of United Kingdom. Moreover, retailers are required to understand the important lavers beyond information technology that can enable them to enhance relative market share and profitability (McDermott, 2000). In this context, retailers in UK are required to understand the best possible ways for gathering, storing, analyzing and deploying organizational knowledge so that competitive advantage can be gained. Thus, sustainable competitive advantage can be achieved in a short period of time by learning about best knowledge management practices in the industry. Retail organizations mainly deal in grocery and FMCG products which are characterized for frequent selling and low pricing. Thus, due to nature of this industry, knowledge management becomes critical aspect for retail business. In this proposed research study, a comparison in the knowledge management practice and role of the same will be investigated in order to create insights regarding usefulness of KM approach to a retail organization (Lee and Choi, 2003).

Tesco and Sainsbury fall under the category of ‘big four grocers’ in UK therefore, these two organizations have been proposed for this research study. The main idea behind proposing this study is to analyze the impact of KM in UK’s retail industry but a comparative study could create better insights for this study. In these two organizations, Tesco has managed to maintain relatively high market share in the country therefore, the proposed study can assist other retailers and competitors of Tesco to gain competitive advantage through appropriate KM practices.

Viability analysis of any research idea is an important aspect while drafting a proposal for the research idea. It assists in making the decision regarding where to implement the research idea in action or not. In this section, rational of selection of this research idea and title has been given so that significance of this proposed manuscript can be identified. The main issue in this study is to identify the basis for making a comparison in knowledge management practice of Tesco and Sainsbury. Both of the selected organizations belong to the same industry and more of that, these are competitors thus; the difference in knowledge management practice could be stubble therefore, it will be a challenging task to evaluate the difference in role of KM for Tesco and Sainsbury.

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The issue has become more relevant in present era because the competition in this sector is very intense. Along with the higher intensity of firm rivalry within the retail industry of UK, changing economic and market situations are propelling retailers to adopt best practices to stay in competition with substantial market share holding. Tesco and Sainsbury are competitors therefore; the comparative analysis would generate the lessons for retail companies. In this way, retail enterprises can also develop appropriate strategies to beat the competition and become market leader. The above discussed issue will be addressed by identifying the basis of difference in KM practices of Tesco and Sainsbury so that pros and cons for both companies can be determined. By this evaluation, the role of KM for retail sector can be investigated and predicted. As a result to this proposed investigation, this study would shed light on the shortfalls in existing KM practices followed by these two organizations and determining the extent to which knowledge management can affect organizational performance. Thus, selection of the proposed title and organizations is backed with suitable justification therefore, it can be said that it would be a wise decision to carry out this study.

Problem statement

For this proposed study, problem statement is identified based on which literature review and research objectives can be formulated. For this study, the major problem is to review the KM practice and make a comparison between the same. It will be a challenging task to determine the points at which KM approach adopted by Tesco differs from Sainsbury’s approach. Moreover, the role of knowledge management is also difficult to determine. In order to solve this problem, extensive literature review will be undertaken so that a better understanding regarding KM practice in retail sector could be created. This way, the problem in this study will be dealt to reach desired outcomes.

1. Literature review

According to Robinson and, (2006) knowledge management is a managerial activity which assists in developing, transferring, transmitting, storing and disseminating the information among the members of a business enterprise to react and make decision in order to attain organizational objectives. Thus, KM can be seen as the organizational activity of managing the knowledge of a corporation by a specified process of applying, sharing and renewing tacit and explicit knowledge of employees for enhancing organizational performance (Robinson and, 2006). Thus, knowledge management approach can be used by retail organization to develop appropriate strategies to become market leader. Alavi and Leidner, (2001) investigated the role of KM in forecasting and revealed that knowledge management is needed in all types of organization as it contributes in intelligence management of a company. Thus, need of competitive intelligence should be recognized by companies. They further provided that once the need is recognized, it assists companies though the process of learning from business activities. Many times, KM process is considered as synonymous to forecasting process (Alavi and Leidner, 2001). Therefore, forecasting process is the one through which sales forecasting is supported by knowledge management process.

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Gold and Arvind, (2001) also reviewed the role of knowledge management for retail organization by studying the knowledge management process cycle. The process cycle is comprised of four major stages including KM process, organizational process, intermediate outcomes and improved organizational performance. According to the cycle, KM process starts with the number of activities including creation, acquisition, refinement, storage, transfer, sharing and re-use of knowledge (Gold and Arvind 2001). In the similar fashion, Massa and Testa, (2009) also identified the significance of the KM process in the organizational process. They explored the key areas of improvements in the company including innovation, collective learning, collaborative and decision making. They also added in their research that the intermediate outcomes of the same be seen on organizational behavior, relationship, products and services that ultimately improves organizational performance (Massa and Testa, 2009).

Nonetheless, it is not necessary that every organization would reap the benefits of implementing knowledge management software/ process if the business strategies and objectives are not aligned. But a well defined knowledge management process can result in significant improvements for business enterprises within retail sector of UK.

Earl, (2001) investigated the impact of knowledge management on UK’s supermarket and undertook a study on a total of 15 supermarkets in UK. He carried out statistical research and applied correlation and regression analysis on the empirical data for reaching the conclusions. The study conducted by him concluded that knowledge management was essential for retail organization to stay in competition as relatively a strong positive correlation was found (Earl, 2001). Nevertheless, in few cases it may not work due to inability of companies to manage information and data effectively. Thus, it can be sated that significance of KM adoption also depends upon the strategies adopted for the same. In this context, Tiwana, (2000) also expressed his views and identified knowledge management as a set of relatively new organizational activities that are aimed at enhancing knowledge, knowledge related practice and organizational performance. KM can improve organizational outcomes if used appropriately (Tiwana, 2000).

2. Aims and Objectives

In this section, aims and objectives for this study have been identified because objectives ensure the focus of a manuscript in right direction. Aims can be seen as the ultimate goal whereas objectives are sub parts of aim which ensure the attainment of proposed goal for a dissertation. For this study, aims and objectives proposed are listed below with regard to this research.

Aim: To investigate the role of Knowledge Management (KM) in UK’s retail stores: A comparative study between Sainsbury and Tesco


  • To understand meaning and significance of KM for retail sector of United Kingdom
  • To make comparison between knowledge management practice of Tesco and Sainsbury
  • To analyze the impact of KM practice of Tesco and Sainsbury on their business performance
  • To identify best knowledge management practices that could be adopted by UK’s retail organizations

Research questions

1.Why KM is needed in for retail sector of United Kingdom?
2.What are the points of differences in which knowledge management practice of Tesco and Sainsbury differs?
3.How knowledge management affects Tesco and Sainsbury’s business performance?
4.What could be the best practices in knowledge management that could be adopted by UK’s retail organizations?

3. Methodology

3.1 Research philosophy

In researches of social sciences, research philosophies play important role as these provide an idea regarding the mindset of researcher. It is essential for audience to understand the philosophy employed in the research so that better understanding of the content of manuscript can be created. Out of three common research philosophies including positivism, interpretivism and realism, a positivism research philosophy has been proposed. A positivism research philosophy seeks to draw findings based on statistical analysis and testing the pre defined as well established theories (Patton, 2005). Therefore, it can assist in making comparison between Tesco and Sainsbury’s competitive intelligence approach based on the sophisticated evaluation of data.

3.2 Research approach

Nature of study can be predicted by identifying the research approach that has been employed in a dissertation. Generally, there are two types of research approaches including deductive and inductive approach. In inductive approach is one which is used to move from specific findings to generalized one. On the other hand, deductive approach does general to specific reasoning. In this study, inductive approach will be employed because using the comparative study of Tesco and Sainsbury; the results will be implied and drawn on entire retail sector of United Kingdom (Silverman, 2013).

3.3 Research design

Research designs can basically be bifurcated in two types including basic and applied research. Specifically, four types of research designs are employed in academic researches including descriptive, exploratory, causal and explanatory. Out of these, descriptive research design is proposed because it seeks to describe the variables (Goddard and Melville, 2004). Justification of the selection of this study can also be given as in this study various variables and factors will be identified to understand the role of knowledge management.

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3.4 Research methods and techniques

In this proposed study, both qualitative and quantitative methods will be employed to draw appropriate findings. SPSS will be used to run appropriate tests and apply on the collected data whereas thematic approach will also be employed. Thus, using mixed methods, the data will be analyzed and conclusions will be illuminated (Creswell, 2014).

3.5 Time frame

Cross sectional and longitudinal are two types of time horizons which are used to carry out research. A longitudinal time frame, as the name suggests is one which is used to collect data from the selected participants for an extended period of time (Silverman, 2010). Cross sectional time horizon on the other hand is one in which the data is collected at a particular time. In this study, cross sectional time frame is selected because it was found that results will not very due to responses of participants at different periods of time.

3.6 Data collection

In this proposed manuscript, both primary and secondary data will be collected because it assists in increasing internal validity and reliability of a dissertation. Primary data in this study will be gathered by using survey methodology. Thus, a pre-tested and well-structured questionnaire will be developed. Thus, survey methodology will be used for gathering empirical data. Secondary data on the other hand will be collected in the form of previous research findings, relevant theories and concept (Hoy, 2009). Therefore, various books, journals and online articles will be accessed to gather secondary data.

4. Sampling strategy

4.1 Recruitment of participants

Sampling can be defined as subset of population which is used to recruit small group of people as a representative of population. For this study, the population was identified all the employees of Tesco and Sainsbury who had knowledge regarding information handling and management process of company. Thus, Tesco and Sainsbury’s employees will be selected for this research study. For recruitment of participants, there are two types of techniques including probability and non probability. The participants will be selected by using stratified sampling method from probability sampling which gives equal change to each element to be selected. The selected method is appropriate for this study because it eliminates the limitation of biasness in research (Jonker and Pennink, 2010).

4.2 Sample size

As the study is to be carried out for inferring generalized results therefore, a total of 100 employees (50 from Tesco and 50 from Sainsbury) from various outlets of Tesco and Sainsbury will be selected. The proposed sample size can be justified because it would not require too much time and cost. Moreover, it is not so small that it could not represent the universe therefore, selection of sample size can said to be appropriate.

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4.3 Ethical and accessibility issues

In this proposed manuscript, various ethical and accessibility issues can be witnessed which are identified and described in this section. In this study, participants may be reluctant to involve in this study due to threat of disclosure of personal identity. Furthermore, the organizations can be harmed due to their responses. Along with this, various accessibility are likely to be faced by researcher such as contacting participants, entering into the retail store premises etc. In order to minimize ethical and accessibility issues, rational approach can be adopted (Schostak and Schostak, 2012). For example, ensuring respondents regarding maintaining confidentiality of their personal information, assuring that any person or entity will not be harmed and taking prior permission from management for contacting with their employees.

4.4 Schedule of research

The below mentioned activities in Gantt chart are the steps which will be followed in this research study. The activities start from identification of research idea and title which is succeeded with initial review and development of draft. Once the initial draft is completed, the extensive literature review will be undertaken to identify objectives and methodology. Thus, by following remaining steps the manuscript will be completed.


  • Alavi, M. and Leidner, D. E., 2001. Review: Knowledge management and knowledge management systems: Conceptual foundations and research issues. MIS quarterly.
  • Earl, M., 2001. Knowledge management strategies: Toward a taxonomy. Journal of management information systems. 18(1). pp. 215-233
  • Gold, A. H. and Arvind M., 2001. Knowledge management: An organizational capabilities perspective. Journal of management information systems. 18(1). pp. 185-214.
  • Massa, S. and Testa, S., 2009. A knowledge management approach to organizational competitive advantage: Evidence from the food sector. European Management Journal. 27(2). pp. 129-141.
  • Choo, C. and, 2002. The strategic management of intellectual capital and organizational knowledge. Oxford University Press.
  • Creswell, J. W., 2014. A concise introduction to mixed methods research. SAGE Publications.
  • Goddard, W. and Melville, S., 2004. Research Methodology: An Introduction. Juta and Company Ltd
  • Hoy, K.W., 2009. Quantitative Research in Education: A Primer. SAGE
  • Jonker, J., and Pennink, B., 2010. The Essence of Research Methodology. Springer.
  • Silverman, D., 2013. Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. SAGE Publications Limited.

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