Mitigating perceived external export barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises that sell and manufacture "Made in the USA" consumer apparel products in Washington State
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The rapid decline of the U.S. apparel industry has not gone unnoticed by U.S. politicians and decision-makers, yet the vertical disintegration of apparel manufacturing is still commonplace in America. Robock (1993) and Rowan (2014) contend that the revitalization of the domestic apparel manufacturing industry depends upon the export of “Made in the USA” consumer apparel products to other industrialized nations. The perceptions of external barriers among employees of Washington State small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that manufacture and sell “Made in the USA” consumer apparel products were examined in this study to shed light on the factors inhibiting internationalization and preventing firms from exporting at higher levels. A case study research design and stratified purposeful criterion sampling approach were utilized to collect qualitative data using semi-structured interview questions and document analysis. Cross-case analysis and inductive coding were utilized to identify key themes and reveal lessons learned for Washington State SMEs that manufacture and sell “Made in the USA” consumer apparel products. Hybrid exporters have the greatest degree of flexibility when it comes to internationalization, enabling them to get closer to customers in all locations, instead of just those in nearby areas. The external barriers that seem to affect hybrid exporters relate to taxes and customs delays, but qualitative data from this dissertation indicate that using export promotion programs might be a model for mitigating these obstacles. Utilizing the international entrepreneurship approach with the addition of direct-to-consumer export options could also increase internationalization among firms considering exporting to Canada and those using indirect internationalization strategies. Additionally, despite the inclusion of document analysis and the introduction of the cross-case analysis table, more complete data from the semi-structured interviews may result in different lessons learned and key themes, particularly concerning indirect exporting or exports through wholesale agreements with other stores. Finally, researchers should replicate this study in different geographic locations, particularly the mid-west and the northeastern U.S., which border Canada and have a significant amount of apparel manufacturing activity, to determine if and how the findings differ.