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Organizational Structure and Gray Markets

Author

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  • Romana L. Autrey

    (College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820)

  • Francesco Bova

    (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6, Canada)

  • David A. Soberman

    (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6, Canada)

Abstract

Conventional wisdom suggests that when firms face a negative externality like gray marketing (i.e., the selling of branded goods outside of the manufacturer’s authorized channels), an effective strategy to reduce the negative impact is to centralize decision making. Nevertheless, in industries with significant gray marketing, we observe many firms with decentralized decision making. Our study assesses whether decentralized decision making can be optimal when a manufacturer faces gray market distribution. We consider a market where a focal firm competes with an existing competitor that produces a differentiated product and a gray marketer that sources an identical product from a lower-priced foreign market. We find that decentralization is optimal under quantity-based competition, provided the gray market is relatively uncompetitive and the level of competitive intensity between the focal firm and the competitor is high. Decentralization leads a firm to make aggressive production decisions, which leads to lower prices, yet it also leads to higher market share for the firm compared to centralization. When the level of competitive intensity between a firm and its competitor is high, the gain in market share more than offsets the loss due to lower prices. As a result, the focal firm is better off decentralizing its operations independent of (a) whether the competitor operates in the foreign market, and (b) the competitor’s organizational structure. This finding contradicts the belief that centralized decision making is always optimal when authorized manufacturers attempt to limit the negative impact of gray markets. The findings also provide insight to understand why firms might employ decentralized decision making in industries where gray markets are active.

Suggested Citation

  • Romana L. Autrey & Francesco Bova & David A. Soberman, 2014. "Organizational Structure and Gray Markets," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(6), pages 849-870, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:33:y:2014:i:6:p:849-870
    DOI: 10.1287/mksc.2014.0869
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    2. Xueying Liu & Amit Pazgal, 2020. "The Impact of Gray Markets on Product Quality and Profitability," Customer Needs and Solutions, Springer;Institute for Sustainable Innovation and Growth (iSIG), vol. 7(3), pages 62-73, October.
    3. Wang, Yingjia & Lin, Jiaxin & Choi, Tsan-Ming, 2020. "Gray market and counterfeiting in supply chains: A review of the operations literature and implications to luxury industries," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 133(C).
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    6. Yuetao Gao, 2018. "On the Use of Overt Anti-Counterfeiting Technologies," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(3), pages 403-424, May.
    7. Li, Hai & Qing, Qiankai & Wang, Juan & Hong, Xianpei, 2021. "An analysis of technology licensing and parallel importation under different market structures," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 289(1), pages 132-143.
    8. Li, Hai & Shao, Jing & Zhu, Stuart X., 2018. "Parallel importation in a supply Chain: The impact of gray market structure," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 220-241.
    9. Huang, Hongfu & He, Yong & Chen, Jing, 2020. "Cross-market selling channel strategies in an international luxury brand's supply chain with gray markets," Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, Elsevier, vol. 144(C).
    10. Hoppner, Jessica J. & Griffith, David A., 2015. "Looking Back to Move Forward: A Review of the Evolution of Research in International Marketing Channels," Journal of Retailing, Elsevier, vol. 91(4), pages 610-626.

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