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Product Variety and Demand Uncertainty

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  • Dennis W. Carlton
  • James D. Dana

Abstract

We show that demand uncertainty leads to vertical product differentiation even when consumers are homogeneous. When a firm anticipates that its inventory or capacity may not be fully utilized, product variety can reduce its expected costs of excess capacity. When the firm offers a continuum of product varieties, the highest quality product has the highest profit margins but the lowest percentage margin, while the lowest quality product has the highest percentage margin but the lowest absolute margin. We derive these results in both a monopoly model and a variety of different competitive models. We conclude with a discussion of empirical predictions together with a brief discussion of supporting evidence available from marketing studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Dennis W. Carlton & James D. Dana, 2004. "Product Variety and Demand Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 10594, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10594
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10594.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Curtis Eaton, B. & Lipsey, Richard G., 1989. "Product differentiation," Handbook of Industrial Organization,in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 723-768 Elsevier.
    2. Robert B. Barsky & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Daniel Levy, 2003. "What Can the Price Gap between Branded and Private-Label Products Tell Us about Markups?," NBER Chapters,in: Scanner Data and Price Indexes, pages 165-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Shepard, Andrea, 1991. "Price Discrimination and Retail Configuration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 30-53, February.
    4. Eden, Benjamin, 1990. "Marginal Cost Pricing When Spot Markets Are Complete," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1293-1306, December.
    5. Carlton, Dennis W, 1978. "Market Behavior with Demand Uncertainty and Price Inflexibility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(4), pages 571-587, September.
    6. Mussa, Michael & Rosen, Sherwin, 1978. "Monopoly and product quality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 301-317, August.
    7. James D. Dana & Jr., 1998. "Advance-Purchase Discounts and Price Discrimination in Competitive Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 395-422, April.
    8. Prescott, Edward C, 1975. "Efficiency of the Natural Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1229-1236, December.
    9. S. Baranzoni & P. Bianchi & L. Lambertini, 2000. "Multiproduct Firms, Product Differentiation, and Market Structure," Working Papers 368, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
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    Cited by:

    1. Amanda S. King & John T. King, 2006. "Quality Competition With Stochastic Demand And Costly Search: Theory And Evidence From The Video Rental Market," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 241-252, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D4 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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