Higher education’s role in capacitating retail businesses’ well-being, resilience and efficiency post-COVID-19

L. Steynberg, J.P. Grundling, B. Liu, and Y. Li

Vol 16 | Issue 3 pp. 19-31


The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging business confidence and sustainability globally. This paper explores the critical role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in supporting retail businesses to capitalise on the realities of the pandemic. Following a corpus-review approach, 147 articles on higher education, COVID-19, and retail that were published from January to May 2020 were analysed. A constructivist grounded theory approach driven by a data coding process and qualitative analysis was adopted to identify underlying concepts for constructing appropriate responses. First-level coding identified substantive codes that were  converted into broader abstract concepts, while a word-tree analysis identified the core theme. A series of codes were classified into reduced final concepts and dimensions using NVivo 12. Finally, a binary similarity index (Jaccard’s coefficients) was used to calculate the similarities between any two sets of substantive concepts. The results revealed three driving forces determining postCOVID-19 retail business survival and sustainability: quality, omni-channel retailing, and accountable management. The demand for flexible and blended forms of life-long learning will require employee up-skilling and re-skilling, and has increased the demand for short-term online courses. The future of retail businesses will depend more on science and technology that focus on the green economy, health and safety, and daily business operations. The future of retail relies on big data, artificial intelligence and automotive learning devices to act ex ante on expected changes in the retail ecosystem. More research is required on how to cultivate HEI partnerships to collectively develop a noösphere capacity to protect the retail sector from micro and global challenges.
Keywords: accountable management, constructivist grounded theory, COVID-19, higher education, omni-channel retailing, quality

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