IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Countervailing Power And Antitrust Policy In The Food System


  • Venturini, Luciano


Recent contributions to the issue of countervailing power have formally demonstrated that imperfectly competitive market structures in retailing have different welfare implications from those hypothesized by Galbraith (1952) according to which increasing concentration in retailing may offer social benefits. Recent works in this area show that greater concentration at the retail level may afford retailers a simultaneous increase in both their buying and selling power. Whilst the former improves their relative bargaining position, the latter allows for increased price-cost margins. This recent literature suggests that retailing concentration may have a negative impact on consumer welfare since the effect of increased price-cost margins is sufficiently greater than the downward pressure on intermediate prices generated by increases in retailers' 'buying power'. As a result, greater concentration at the retail level may lead to higher final prices and lower social welfare. In this paper, we argue that the bargaining models of the manufacturer-retailer relationship used in these works take into account only partially the sources of retailers' bargaining power. In fact, they include only the source associated to the number of retailers. However, as indicated by a massive trade and applied literature, several factors determine the relative bargaining power of manufacturers and retailers. One crucial factor is given by the presence of vertical competition between manufacturers' brands and retailers' private labels. This form of competition represents a further source of bargaining power for retailers which may reinforce the buying power effect and imply conclusions more favorable to the countervailing power hypothesis. To explore this hypothesis, we develop a model which differs from previous ones by focusing on market settings where vertical competition affects the relative bargaining positions and bargaining outcomes. The paper examines the negotiation process between a manufacturer and N retailers on the transfer price as a Nash bargaining game and determines the outcome by the Nash bargaining solution. We assume that vertical competition decreases the profit levels and the disagreement payoff of the manufacturer. We also assume that vertical competition increases the disagreement payoff of retailers while their profits remain unchanged. It is shown that vertical competition increases retailers' bargaining power, reduces equilibrium transfer prices and hence equilibrium retail prices. In particular, our results show that final prices are lower when vertical competition is more intense for any given number of retailers. This means that the higher bargaining power associated to vertical competition plays a positive role for consumers when their interest is measured in terms of retail prices.

Suggested Citation

  • Venturini, Luciano, 1998. "Countervailing Power And Antitrust Policy In The Food System," Conference Papers 14489, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:umcicp:14489

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John M. Connor, 1997. "Economic overview and research issues," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(2), pages 253-259.
    2. Dobson, Paul W & Waterson, Michael, 1997. "Countervailing Power and Consumer Prices," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 418-430, March.
    3. von Ungern-Sternberg, Thomas, 1996. "Countervailing power revisited," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 507-519, June.
    4. Nash, John, 1950. "The Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 18(2), pages 155-162, April.
    5. Davidson, Carl, 1988. "Multiunit Bargaining in Oligopolistic Industries," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(3), pages 397-422, July.
    6. Ronald W. Cotterill, 1997. "The food distribution system of the future: Convergence towards the US or UK model?," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(2), pages 123-135.
    7. Martin J. Osborne & Ariel Rubinstein, 2005. "Bargaining and Markets," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000515, UCLA Department of Economics.
    8. N Wrigley, 1992. "Antitrust Regulation and the Restructuring of Grocery Retailing in Britain and the USA," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 24(5), pages 727-749, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Chin, Ming-Chin & Weaver, Robert D., 2004. "Forward Contracting Specification Through Collective Bargaining," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20006, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).

    More about this item


    Industrial Organization;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:umcicp:14489. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.