Research in sustainability has focused on the productive industry and other polluting sectors, leaving aside the sustainable development of the service industry such as retail. Increasingly, retail companies are facing substantial sustainability problems such as pressure from resource limitations, fierce competition, the variability of customer needs, and the development of technology. Adopting best practices through managerial learning is the key to achieving sustainable development for retailers. However, there is a lack of discussion of the micro mechanism of sustainable development in the existing sustainable research field. From the perspective of internal sustainable development, taking Chinese retailers as the sample, this study explores the effect of the managerial learning mechanism on sustainable development on the basis of empirical research. First, this study measures the management efficiency of Chinese retailers, which is the micro basis of sustainable development. Second, the effects of two types of managerial learning mechanisms (government-driven and professional organization driven) on management efficiency are tested. The results show that management efficiency contributes to the growth of the total factor productivity in Chinese retailers, and firms should attach importance to the improvement of management efficiency. Specifically, retailers can strengthen management efficiency by establishing managerial learning platforms with professional institutions, and thus prevent the substitution role of absorptive capacity.
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