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Price Variability Or Rigidity In The Food-Retailing Sector? Theoretical Analysis And Evidence From German Scanner Data


  • Herrmann, Roland
  • Moser, Anke


In many industrialized countries, the grocery-retailing sector exhibits a strong and increasing market concentration. Hence, it is important to understand retail pricing for many questions related to market power in the marketing chain and to agricultural and food policies. We analyze intertemporal pricing of grocery retailers in Germany with a large set of scanner data for processed foods. In theory, food prices could be rather variable, e.g. due to fluctuating commodity prices in a competitive world, or rather rigid, e.g. due to price adjustment costs. We elaborate that retail sales are crucial and raise food price variability at the points of sale. Despite this, prices are rather rigid and often do not change for many weeks. Moreover, pricing strategies for identical brands vary strongly across retailers. Retailers seem to have differential pricing strategies and, thus, market power. This casts substantial doubt on the assumption of a competitive price transmission in the marketing channel underlying most analyses in agricultural economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Herrmann, Roland & Moser, Anke, 2003. "Price Variability Or Rigidity In The Food-Retailing Sector? Theoretical Analysis And Evidence From German Scanner Data," 2003 Annual Meeting, August 16-22, 2003, Durban, South Africa 25867, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae03:25867

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Elizabeth Powers & Nicholas Powers, 2001. "The Size and Frequency of Price Changes: Evidence from Grocery Stores," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 18(4), pages 397-416, June.
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    7. Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Robert Venable, 1997. "The Magnitude of Menu Costs: Direct Evidence from Large U. S. Supermarket Chains," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(3), pages 791-824.
    8. Lach, Saul & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1996. "Staggering and Synchronization in Price-Setting: Evidence from Multiproduct Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1175-1196, December.
    9. Steve McCorriston, 2002. "Why should imperfect competition matter to agricultural economists?," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 349-371, July.
    10. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1982. "Sticky Prices in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1187-1211, December.
    11. Carlton, Dennis W, 1986. "The Rigidity of Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 637-658, September.
    12. Margaret E. Slade & G.R.E.Q.A.M., 1998. "Optimal Pricing with Costly Adjustment: Evidence from Retail-Grocery Prices," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(1), pages 87-107.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sascha A. Weber & Sven M. Anders, 2007. "Price rigidity and market power in German retailing," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(7), pages 737-749.
    2. Egbert, Henrik & Fischer, Gundula & Bredl, Sebastian, 2009. "Advertisements or friends? Formal and informal recruitment methods in Tanzania," Discussion Papers 46, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Center for international Development and Environmental Research (ZEU).
    3. Herrmann, Roland & Moeser, Anke, 2005. "Psychological Prices and Price Rigidity in Grocery Retailing: Analysis of German Scanner Data," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19471, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Roland Herrmann & Anke Moeser, 2006. "Do psychological prices contribute to price rigidity? Evidence from German scanner data on food brands," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(1), pages 51-67.
    5. Herrmann Roland & Moeser Anke & Weber Sascha Alexander, 2005. "Price Rigidity in the German Grocery-Retailing Sector: Scanner-Data Evidence on Magnitude and Causes," Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-37, February.


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