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The Impact of Reference Price Effects on the Profitability of Price Promotions


  • Eric A. Greenleaf

    (New York University)


This paper investigates the impact of reference price effects on retailer price promotions and describes why these effects can make promoting profitable. First, we analyze the profit impact of reference price effects generated by a single period of promotion. The promotion can increase profit if the gain that these effects create in the promotion period outweighs the loss they create in future periods. We then describe how retailers can estimate the optimal strategy of recurring promotions that maximizes profits from reference price effects over a time horizon. Examples of such strategies are presented for a retailer selling a national brand of peanut butter. We obtain insights into how promotion prices, timing, and profits are affected by changes in costs, interest rates, consumers' reactions to reference price effects, and error in estimates used in the model. The retailer's optimal reaction to a trade deal is also examined. This strategy involves a phase of increased promotion activity sandwiched between phases of decreased activity. We explain these results using the effects described in the single-period model.

Suggested Citation

  • Eric A. Greenleaf, 1995. "The Impact of Reference Price Effects on the Profitability of Price Promotions," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(1), pages 82-104.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:14:y:1995:i:1:p:82-104

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