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Retail Pricing and Clearance Sales

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  • Edward P. Lazear

Abstract

Sellers of new products are faced with having to guess demand conditions to set price appropriately. But sellers are able to adjust price over time and to learn from past mistakes. Additionally, it is not necessary that all goods be sold with certainty. It is sometimes better to set a high price and to risk no sale. This process is modeled to explain retail pricing behavior and the time distribution of transactions. Prices start high and fall as afunction of time on the shelf. The initial price and rate of decline can be predicted and depends on thinness of the market, the proportion of customers who are "window shoppers," and other observable characteristics. In a simplecase, when prices are set optimally, the probability of selling the product is constant over time. Among the more interesting predictions is that women's clothes may sell for a higher average price than men's clothes, given similar cost, even in a competitive market. Another is that the initial price level and the rate of price decline are positively related to the probability of selling the good. Other observable relationships are discussed.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1446.

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Date of creation: Sep 1984
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Publication status: published as The American Economic Review, Vol. 76, Number 1, pages 14-32, March 1986.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1446

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  1. Nancy L. Stokey, 1981. "Rational Expectations and Durable Goods Pricing," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(1), pages 112-128, Spring.
  2. Paul R. Milgrom & John Roberts, 1984. "Price and Advertising Signals of Product Quality," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 709, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Milgrom, Paul R & Weber, Robert J, 1982. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1089-1122, September.
  4. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1981. "A Theory of Monopoly Pricing Schemes with Demand Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 347-65, June.
  5. Grossman, Sanford J & Kihlstrom, Richard E & Mirman, Leonard J, 1977. "A Bayesian Approach to the Production of Information and Learning by Doing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 533-47, October.
  6. A. M. Spence, 1981. "The Learning Curve and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 12(1), pages 49-70, Spring.
  7. Clarke, Darral G & Dolan, Robert J, 1984. "A Simulation Analysis of Alternative Pricing Strategies for Dynamic Environments," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages S179-200, January.
  8. Robert B. Wilson, 1967. "Competitive Bidding with Asymmetric Information," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(11), pages 816-820, July.
  9. William Vickrey, 1961. "Counterspeculation, Auctions, And Competitive Sealed Tenders," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 16(1), pages 8-37, 03.
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