Purpose: The purpose of the present study is twofold. First, the study will investigate the importance of tradition for businesses operating during the COVID-19 crisis, notably, as a valuable proposition and strategy. Second, the study seeks to advance theoretical understanding, proposing two frameworks based upon emerging dimensions, the resource-based view and dynamic capabilities.

Design/methodology/approach: An online survey gathered the views of 107 predominantly micro and small-scale owner-manager and family-owned firms involved in the food and wine sector. These participants are based in Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries in the crisis.

Findings: Three fundamental dimensions emerge from the findings. The first, “embedded advantage”, concerns firms’ more direct involvement and tradition-related actions. The second, “active advantage”, highlights the already established value of tradition, for example, through firm identity gained, well-established roots and firm culture. The third dimension, “strategic fusion”, underscores the importance of upgrading the business model, where innovation complements tradition strategically.

Originality/value: The study’s revealed dimensions provide new conceptual perspectives to understand tradition in the context of firms confronting an unprecedented event. The first proposed theoretical framework illustrates that firms appear to mainly rely on tradition as the fundamental pillar of their overall strategy. Additionally, other firms engage in actions to consolidate tradition’s strategic significance, while others embrace innovation to further strengthen their competitiveness. The second framework emphasises relations between these dimensions and key attributes associated with the two adopted theoretical foundations, where the need to “reconfigure tradition” clearly emerges.


tradition, micro and small firms, COVID-19, resource-based view, dynamic capabilities

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