Marks & Spencer is currently met with a wide array of challenges, among which the emergence of the internationalized economic crisis which reduces the buying powers of the individuals, but also the incremental pressures for sustainable development. As the rest of the retailers, Marks & Spencer promotes its development through high levels of consumption, but given the unstable state of the environment, the governments militate for sustainable and limited consumption (Jones, Comfort and Hillier, 2007).
Another challenge is constituted by the need to adapt to the cultural values in the regions into which it expands and opens new stores (Amine and Smith, 2009). Also, the organization deal with financial and legal challenges derived from the international feature of business, such as the competition with local purveyors or the ability to combine and centralize the losses and profits of its international subsidiaries (Graetz and Warren, 2006).
2.5. Perceptions of Thai consumers over Marks & Spencer
The specialized literature on the particularities of Thai customers' perceptions and acceptance of Marks & Spencer in their country is fairly limited. This limitation virtually points towards the necessity and use of the future study which would explain an unexplored territory. In spite of this lack of sources nevertheless, valid information can be collected from informal sources, such as internet pages and forums, where the Thai consumers interact and reveal their perceptions of the British retailer.
An analysis of these secondary sources of information leads to the following findings:
Marks & Spencer does not operate large retail facilities in Thailand, but has focused on operating small outlets, strategically spread throughout the cities.
The customers look forward to purchasing from the British company as they appreciate its variety and different sense of style. The customers for instance complain about the limited choices which are offered by the local stores and look at Marks & Spencer for variety. One customer pointed out: "I am looking forward to the shopping as I think the clothes shops in NZ are awful!! After shopping in South Africa this place is seriously limited for choice" (Trip Advisor, 2008).
The Thai customers perceive Marks & Spencer as a source of good quality products, which serves a wide array of individual purposes. They nevertheless complain about the small size of the outlets, which reduces the offer and as such the choice opportunities for the customers. The customers estimate that the Marks & Spencer stores in Thailand sell about 20 to 30 per cent of what they sell in the United Kingdom.
The customers also complain that the prices Marks & Spencer implements in the Thai outlets are higher than the prices they implement in the UK stores. One particular customer argued that he observed a pair of boxers in the UK being sold for £5, whereas in Bangkok, the same pair of boxers was sold for £10. It is generally assumed that the higher price is due to excessive taxations by the Thai government (Thai Visa, 2010).
3. The research methodology
The methodology at the basis of the future research endeavor is a combination of qualitative research and quantitative research. Qualitative research has the advantage of assessing the population thoroughly, but the disadvantage of integrating the personal bias of the researcher. Quantitative research on the other hand implies tedious work, but conclusions which can be extrapolated as they rely on factual data. Bart L. Weathington, Christopher J.L. Cunningham, David J. Pittenger (2010, p.526) argue: "Whereas quantitative research is designed to empirically identify the presence and magnitude of differences between individuals and/or groups of individuals, qualitative research is typically more focused on sense-making in a purer sense."
The qualitative research stage would be completed throughout the analysis of various secondary data. The quantitative research stage would be completed with the construction and issuing of a questionnaire. The combination of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies -- generically know as triangulation (Downs, 1999) -- is a highly common practice within the academic community and the reasons for this popularity are given by the ability of the combination to maximize the advantages of the two different methods, while also minimizing their limitations. At a theoretical level, the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies ensures interpretative validity and data trustworthiness (Maree, Maree and van der Westhuizen, 2009).
3.1. Secondary data
As it has been previously mentioned, the secondary sources constitute the qualitative research stage of the future research endeavor. At a primary level, qualitative research is constituted by the analysis of the population researched. The analysis and observation of the Thai consumers' population would be conducted with the aid of a wide variety secondary sources, including internet pages, previous research papers, books or articles. Each of these sources reveals its own benefits and limitations, but -- similar to triangulation -- their combination constructs data relevance and reliability through the maximization of the benefits and the limitation of the disadvantages.
One example of secondary sources benefits and limitations refers to the internet pages, such as forums, which have the main advantage of revealing the direct and uncensored opinions of the Thai consumers, but also reveal the disadvantage of human bias. Then, the books reveal the advantage of being highly documented and researched, retrieving as such reliable findings. They are however often outdated and unable to present the issues of today. Journal articles and previous research endeavors reveal the main advantages of being peer reviewed and as such highly reliable, and also dealing with more novel topics than the books. They do however focus on specific pieces of information related to the research topic and they might not always be relevant to the reader.
The qualitative analysis has already been approached through the literature review section. Basically, the qualitative analysis is represented by the assessment of the available literature and the centralization of the most relevant findings. It has to be noted that the literature review presented throughout the previous section constitutes only the starting point of the future research endeavor. While the review integrated in this proposal would represent the backbone of the future research endeavor, one particular element has to be noted. Specifically, as the research process develops, new sources of important information could be uncovered. This virtually means that additional relevant information could be added to the paper, generating as such modifications in the structure of the secondary sources used in the construction of the research findings.
3.2. Primary data
The collection and analysis of data from primary sources of information constitutes the quantitative aspect of the research endeavor. It specifically refers to the construction and issuing of a questionnaire. The starting point in the construction of the questionnaire is constituted by the previous review of the available literature. Similar to this, the questionnaire could suffer future modification as new pieces of information are identified and integrated. At an initial level however, the questionnaire would be divided into two sections. The first section would collect demographic information on the respondents, whereas the second section would collect information particular to the research question. At this level, the questionnaire would be revealed as follows:
Question 1: Please state your gender:
Question 2: Please state the age category to which you belong:
a) Below 20 years
b) Between 20 and 35
c) Between 35 and 50
d) Over 50
Question 3: Please state the last level of education you completed:
a) Less than high school
b) High school
d) Master's, doctoral or more
Question 4: Please state the income category to which you belong:
a) Below average income
b) Average income
c) Above average income
Question 5: Please state the number of times you went outside of Thailand.
a) Once or less
b) Between 2 and 5 times
c) Between 5 and 10 times
d) Over 10 times
Question 6: How do you feel about the changes impacting Thailand's economy and society?
a) They are positive changes supporting the development of the Thai community
b) They are negative changes stifling the Thai traditions
c) I do not know / care
Question 7: How do you feel about the increasing presence of international retailers in Thailand?
a) They generate positive change and development within the economy and the society
b) They only seek for personal profits
c) They lead to the demise of local retailers
d) I do not know / care
Question 8: Have you ever shopped in a Marks & Spencer store?
c) I do not remember
Question 9: How do you feel about the small outlets strategy implemented by Marks & Spencer in Thailand?
a) it is useful as it creates easy access to the stores
b) it is inefficient as it reduces product variety and diversity
c) I do not know / care
Question 10: What is your opinion regarding the affordability of the Marks & Spencer products?
a) They are highly affordable
b) They are somewhat affordable
c) They are too expensive and unaffordable
Question 11: What do you think about the quality of…