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The positivist approach, testing hypothesis generated from theory, mainly quantitative data and statistical analysis. It decides if results confirm or refute the theory. The quantitative approach makes it possible to do statistical comparisons and compare series of data (Andersson and Nylander 1999). And; The phenomenological approach derives its conclusions based on investigation, qualitative data, and lets the investigation guide the project. This approach increases the understanding of the case studied since it can penetrate deeper into each case (Rott 2000).

Methodological triangulation, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, avoids using just these extremes. I will conduct a case study based on both qualitative and quantitative sources. Small samples of wholesale customers and the managers themselves will be analysed by a qualitative approach, allowing me to draw my own conclusions based on results. The larger sample of retail customers will have a quantitative and qualitative approach, questionnaires will be statistically analysed to ensure complete analysis. Buying behaviours will be observed in a qualitative manner.

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In the thesis I will take the abductive approach, coming from a starting point of empirical findings and existing findings which I will refine and alter both empirically and theoretically to suit the case company. This is a suitable approach when trying to find a deeper understanding about a phenomenon. (Andersson and Nylander 1999). 3. 3. Collecting Evidence In a case study the evidence comes from six different sources; documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant-observation and physical artefacts (Yin 1994). The material can be primary or secondary nature.

Primary data is collected to satisfy the specific purpose of the study. Secondary data is published findings from earlier research studies, often collected at the beginning of research to provide a background and basic information about the topic being researched (Andersson and Nylander 1999). Combining the two types of data will give a deeper understanding of the quantitative data (Halvorsen 1992). I started by using unstructured interviews with the owners of the company, and spent time there making observations on customer behaviour, buying patterns and customer groups as well as practises which the company uses.

I was soon familiar with the situation to be researched. A comprehensive secondary data analysis was carried out to give a better understanding of the literature and theory behind the relationship marketing phenomenon. Primary data was collected first through interviews. Merriam (1994) said that; Interviews are the best form of collecting evidence if the researcher wants to find out facts that cannot be observed. I used these interviews to find the views of management and also all five wholesale customers, the largest individual clients of Greenheart Plants.

The interviews were semi-structured in order to get in-depth result, while still keeping some control (Yin 1994). This approach as enabled me to elaborate on points which were not comprehended, or further investigation on certain topics, the interviews provided me the views of the interviewee. Standardised questionnaires were given to retail customers of the nursery. These were carefully planned, piloted and collected in order to give me important statistical and factual data straight from the customers.

A random sampling approach was used with no researcher bias. 50 questionnaires were given out to customers over four dates from 3rd – 8th March 2003. In order to increase validity I ensured that the questions were not leading and that there were both open and closed ended questions. Assess to customers and information needed was available at all times. Observations were carried out on March 15-16th on general customer buying behaviours. On the 11th of March five competing nurseries were visited in order to establish their positioning.

Primary qualitative interviews were analysed on spot in order to find the direction of future research, but for quantitative data evidence was collected then analysed. After the final data was collected, the analysis moved into an intensive phase, drawing conclusions from it. 3. 4 Quality of the design To have a successful research methodology the quality of it must be high, to judge this the validity and reliability is assessed. Validity concerns the issue whether or not the findings can be shown to be valid for the problem that is being investigated.

Data collected must be relevant to the problem and the purpose of the thesis otherwise there will be low validity. Irrelevant data and unnecessary information leads to low validity. According to Merriam (1998) there are six strategies that can be used to check validity i) Triangulation, ii) Checks, iii) Long-term observation, iv) Peer examination, v) Participatory/ collaborative models of research, vi) Researcher’s biases. In order to increase validity, I used many different types of data collection and had friends to check the data I received, and asked them to help design a successful questionnaire.

Irrelevant answers during interviews were ignored and the questions were design with the interviewee at mind, questions were kept simple in terms of data. Secondary data always came from reliable and trusted sources, so is highly reliable. Interviews were written up just after conducting them so all information was remembered and researcher bias avoided. These factors make me feel that the content is relevant to the purpose of the thesis. Reliability concerns the issue of consistent results of the study if it was replicated.

A good guideline is to make sure that if someone did the project again, the same results would be found (Rott 2000). Reliability is an important aspect of doing a case study and the goal of reliability is to minimise biases and errors in the research study. A prerequisite for reliability is that all the documentation is in order and can be easily found (Yin 1994). Questions followed a set agenda generating relevant and reliable results; however answers from people can be highly subjective as people base responses on perception.

However I feel my questions did not lead people and the answers I got were consistent. Respondents were assured of their anonymity. Heneman (1974) has shown that subjects are more likely to give unbiased responses when anonymity is assured. The findings of the case study can be applied to other businesses in the industry. The results identify important factors in the development process of establishing relationships in relationship marketing in horticulture. I believe the thesis is both valid and reliable. 3. 5 Linkages

To meet my objectives it is essential that the data was collected with them specifically in mind. Figure 3. 2 shows how the information was collected to meet the objectives. 4. 0 Data Analysis – Greenheart Plants In this section Greenheart Plants is analysed. The company’s strategies, policies, critical success factors, strengths and weaknesses will be assessed by analysing my interviews with the owners and by general observations made, as well as from company data. 4. 1 Strategy See appendix one for an in-depth description of my interviews with the owners.

My talks with the owners led me to see that Greenheart Plants is pursuing a local competitive edge strategy where it clearly intends to offer the most competitive quality products within the local region, no national advertising is carried out, and advertising is currently in local newspapers. They aim to compete with competitors on all aspects of service and they believe they are successful and point to their growth rate for proof (Greenheart doubled the amount of tunnels growing plants in 3 years). They see their competitors to be everyone selling garden plants within Stafford and the surrounding area.

However they do not see Bridgemere Garden World and similar large centres as competitors but as alternatives to the garden nursery market. The focus is on growing and selling annual plants such as summer bedding and winter pansies, but also an extensive selection of perennials and hardy shrubs as well as other products. 95% of the plants sold are produced within the nurseries tunnels (horizontal integration). This is to ensure everything which is sold has been grown to the quality which the company prides itself on.

The owners have no plans to diversify into selling a larger range and garden materials and enhancements believing “we can only specialise in so much”. They also are happy with selling solely at the nursery and have no plans to start selling at fetes and markets. The company sells primarily retail to consumers at the nursery, however its five individual biggest customers all are wholesale buyers who purchase goods from the nursery at wholesale prices, and the owners say they are looking for more wholesale links over future periods without damaging retail links which provide more profit.

The owners see their target market as local elderly and ABC1’s; “these are the people with the money and or time to spend in their garden”. Pricing is a low-cost strategy whilst still ensuring high quality by keeping low cost of sales and overheads and by not spending on things which people who buy plants to not want (i. e. cafes).

The owners do not believe the nursery could survive by competing in the Bridgemere market, instead they prefer to keep the minimalist approach to their garden nursery and offer customers plants which they want. Although minimalist, the nursery is planted to be attractive. In order to offer a competitive edge over nurseries they want to introduce a relationship approach with their customers, aiming to use high quality products and superior prices with close customer relationships to increase customer loyalty and retention for the company.

The owners made it clear that they did not have a particular approach they wanted to follow, but indicated they did not want to expand products or distribution channels too much in order to create relationships, instead they would favour a cost effective relationship approach (the company has a small budget for marketing) where the customer will really be benefited by increased satisfaction with the service.

When asking why the wanted a relationship strategy the owners referred to the increasingly difficult market financial situation and increasingly competitive competition in the area, and in horticulture as a whole, although the companies profit and sales are increasing they are aware they cannot sit and wait whilst competitors act, and themselves must attack a new direction and they believe a relational approach is the most attractive solution. 4. 2 Strengths See appendix two for the complete SWOT analysis of Greenheart Plants

From my observations, talks and notes I was able to compile an analysis of the strengths of the company. A main observation was made with product quality; all the plants which were sold were of Class A quality, I heard comments from customers confirming this and from personal knowledge I could see all plants were healthy and of apparent high quality. A simple infrastructure means all orders are processed exceptionally quickly. Currently the only loyalty schemes apply to bulk buying, the more that a wholesale customer buys, the more discount they will receive.

Bulk buying for retail is also present, but not in a sufficient form, however bulk buying is encouraged increasing usage rates. Intangible strengths were apparent on observation, the owners showed knowledge and care about products and customers, time and time again they went out their way to offer a customer with a product which was not on display and spent 10 minutes walking around with the customer showing them plants which would suit their needs. This strength was apparent and if put across correctly would provide Greenheart will a clear competitive advantage over quick sale motivated competitors.

Staff was motivated to help customers with all aspects such as taking the sale to the car and providing information on soil requirements etc when needed. The owners feel that face to face contact is the best way to build customer relationships. A strong bond with customers was apparent with certain clients, familiarity and friendship was apparent, a clear respect was shown by both parties, as literature stated trust and commitment is a valuable tool for relationship success 4. 3. Weaknesses As well as strengths it was essential to look for the weaknesses of the company.

There is no service network at the company, although the company would offer help to enquiries for information there is no process to help customers find information needed after they have purchased a product. After sales services are non existent. The distribution network is lacking. No customer deliveries are done, and the only place for retail customers to purchase from the company is the nursery. Wholesale deliveries are undertaken but that is all. The company has no website where it could attract customers and supply information on products and services increasing its distribution channels.

The marketing budget is small and the amount of advertising done is very small, this reduces the customer awareness of the company within the local area which is the market of the company. Loyalty schemes are insufficient and need to be bought up to date. The biggest weakness observed was the lack of ability to accept credit and debit cards. In the modern retail world it is essential for modern business to accept this form of financing, in my time of observation two sales were refused due to this problem.

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