RESEARCH BRIEF: Determinants of Exports Performance

by Edgar Arias,

exports performance models
Figure 1. Synthesis of performance models (Sousa 2006)

International marketing encompasses the disciplines focused on the trade of goods and services across global boundaries (CharlesDoyle, 2011).  Studying the determinants of exports performance has been one of the major priorities in the field since the 1970s.  However, despite of the tremendous attention devoted by researchers, a comprehensive theory that explains export performance is yet to be developed.  Some consider that knowledge on this field is fragmented, diverse and sometimes even inconsistent, which makes export performance one of the most contentious fields in international marketing (Katsikeas, Leonidou, & Morgan, 2000).  The globalization of businesses, and the importance of exports for industries such as the Hardwood Industry, justify and incentive additional research in pursue of a better understanding of the factors that determine the success of export ventures (Parhizkar, Miller, & Smith, 2010).

There have been several studies that have attempted to revise the existing literature on export performance, for example: (Leonidou, Katsikeas, & Samiee, 2002; Shaoming & Simona, 1998; Sousa, Martínez‐López, & Coelho, 2008).  These studies have been able to provide a perspective on what factors have been proposed as determinants of export performance.  Sousa, in particular, studied the literature between 1998 and 2005, and developed a framework that condenses the results of 52 papers in the export performance literature.  In general, Sousa found that most attempts of developing a framework to explain export performance indicate the presence of at least four elements: internal factors, external factors, control variables and moderating variables.  The internal factors relate to multiple dimensions of the firm: firm characteristics (e.g. size, international experience, market orientation, etc.), export marketing strategy (e.g. product, price, promotion, distribution, etc.) and management characteristics (e.g. export commitment and support, education, international experience, etc.).  External factors relate to the environment that surrounds the firm, domestically and internationally: foreign market characteristics (e.g. legal and political, environmental turbulence, cultural similarity, etc.) and domestic market characteristics (e.g. export assistance).  Control factors (variables) may be either internal or external factors that are of no interest for researcher, but need to be controlled in order to suppress any potential effect in the study.  The selection of control variable depends on the research question, so one researcher’s internal or external variable can be another researcher’s control variable and vice versa.  Finally, moderating variables are those that influence the relationship between independent and dependent variables.  Not all studies accounted by Sousa’s in his literature review include either control of moderating variables.  Figure 1 depicts Sousa et al synthesis of performance models.

In general, there has been abundant research on export performance, but not on the hardwood industry.  As a matter of fact, the study developed of by Sousa established that most research has been multi-industry, rather than single industry.  He recommends that single-industry-based studies are necessary to procure the advancement in the field since the may provide more significant insights on the determinants of export performance.  This would allow having industry as a blocking factor or controlling variable: this means that the differences on the results obtained can’t be explained by differences in industries.


  • American Hardwood Export Council. (2011). US Hardwood Export Statistics: January – December 2010.   Retrieved August 1st, 2011, from
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  • CharlesDoyle. (2011). international marketing: ‘Oxford University Press’.
  • IBISWold. (2012). IBISWorld Industry Report 32111: Sawmills & Wood Production in the US.   Retrieved May, Tuesday the 1st, 2012, 2012, from
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