Globalization, Recession and the Internationalization of Industrial Districts: Experiences from the Italian Jewelry Industry

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Globalization and the recent recession crisis are significantly challenging Italian industrial districts (IDs), leading to deep transformations in their internationalization, innovation and organization strategies. With our empirical focus on a single industry (gold jewellery) and a specific country (Italy) and through the theoretical lenses of the global value chain (GVC) approach, the evidence in this article sheds light on the differences in how three IDs within Italy's gold jewellery sector (Valenza Po, Arezzo and Vicenza) compete in the global arena. Our comparative analysis reveals striking differences among these districts with regard to their upstream and downstream internationalization strategies in response to two industry shocks: increasing global competition in the early 2000s and the world economic recession of 2008–2009. Our explanation for the varied gold jewellery district responses to these two global crises involves both internal and external factors: (1) structural differences between the three IDs; (2) distinct business strategies; and (3) how these districts are linked to the gold jewellery GVC.