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Salience in Retailing: Vertical Restraints on Internet Sales

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  • Magdalena Helfrich
  • Fabian Herweg

Abstract

We provide an explanation for a frequently observed vertical restraint in ecommerce, namely that brand manufacturers partially or completely prohibit that retailers distribute their high-quality products over the internet. Our analysis is based on the assumption that a consumer’s purchasing decision is distorted by salient thinking, i.e. by the fact that he overvalues a product attribute - quality or price - that stands out in a particular choice situation. In a highly competitive low-price environment like on an online platform, consumers focus more on price rather than quality. Especially if the market power of local (physical) retailers is low, price tends to be salient also in the local store, which is unfavorable for the high-quality product and limits the wholesale price a brand manufacturer can charge. If, however, the branded product is not available online, a retailer can charge a significant markup on the high-quality good. As the markup is higher if quality rather than price is salient in the store, this aligns the retailer’s incentives with the brand manufacturer’s interest to make quality the salient attribute and allows the manufacturer to charge a higher wholesale price. We also show that, the weaker are consumers’ preferences for purchasing in the physical store and the stronger their salience bias, the more likely it is that a brand manufacturer wants to restrict online sales. Moreover, we find that a ban on distribution systems that prohibit internet sales increases consumer welfare and total welfare, because it leads to lower prices for final consumers and prevents inefficient online sales.

Suggested Citation

  • Magdalena Helfrich & Fabian Herweg, 2017. "Salience in Retailing: Vertical Restraints on Internet Sales," CESifo Working Paper Series 6615, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6615
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nestor Duch-Brown & Lukasz Grzybowski & Frank Verboven, 2015. "The Impact of Online Sales on Consumers and Firms: Evidence from Household Appliances," JRC Working Papers on Digital Economy 2015-15, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    2. Spiegler, Ran, 2014. "Bounded Rationality and Industrial Organization," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199334261.
    3. Markus Dertwinkel-Kalt & Katrin Köhler & Mirjam R. J. Lange & Tobias Wenzel, 2017. "Demand Shifts Due to Salience Effects: Experimental Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 626-653.
    4. Alberto Cavallo, 2017. "Are Online and Offline Prices Similar? Evidence from Large Multi-channel Retailers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(1), pages 283-303, January.
    5. repec:eee:indorg:v:52:y:2017:i:c:p:30-62 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. G.F. Mathewson & R.A. Winter, 1984. "An Economic Theory of Vertical Restraints," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(1), pages 27-38, Spring.
    7. Chris Forman & Anindya Ghose & Avi Goldfarb, 2009. "Competition Between Local and Electronic Markets: How the Benefit of Buying Online Depends on Where You Live," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(1), pages 47-57, January.
    8. Daniel Kahneman & Richard H. Thaler, 2006. "Anomalies: Utility Maximization and Experienced Utility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 221-234, Winter.
    9. Matthias Hunold & Johannes Muthers, 2017. "Resale price maintenance and manufacturer competition for retail services," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 48(1), pages 3-23, March.
    10. John Asker & Heski Bar-Isaac, 2014. "Raising Retailers' Profits: On Vertical Practices and the Exclusion of Rivals," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 672-686, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Markus Dertwinkel-Kalt & Mats Köster, 2017. "Salience and Online Sales: The Role of Brand Image Concerns," CESifo Working Paper Series 6787, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Köster, Mats, 2018. "Salience and Online Sales: The Role of Brand Image Concerns," Annual Conference 2018 (Freiburg, Breisgau): Digital Economy 181498, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    internet competition; relative thinking; retailing; salience; selective distribution;

    JEL classification:

    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law
    • L42 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Vertical Restraints; Resale Price Maintenance; Quantity Discounts

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