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Pass-Through in Retail and Wholesale


  • Emi Nakamura


This paper studies how prices comove across products, firms and locations to gauge the relative importance of retailer versus manufacturer-level shocks in determining prices. I make use of a large panel data set on prices for a cross-section of retailers in the U.S. I analyze prices at the barcode or "Universal Product Code'' (UPC) level for individual stores. I find that only 16% of the variation in prices is common across stores selling an identical product. 65% of the price variation is common to stores within a particular retail chain (but not across retail chains), while 17% is completely idiosyncratic to the store and product. Product categories with frequent temporary "sales'' exhibit a disproportionate amount of completely idiosyncratic price variation. My results suggest that most of the observed price variation arises from retail-level rather than manufacturer-level demand and supply shocks. However, the behavior of prices is difficult to relate to observed variation in costs and demand at the retail level. This suggests that retail prices may vary largely as a consequence of dynamic pricing strategies on the part of retailers or manufacturers, rather than static demand and supply shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Emi Nakamura, 2008. "Pass-Through in Retail and Wholesale," NBER Working Papers 13965, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13965
    Note: IFM IO ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Hosken & David Reiffen, 2004. "Patterns of Retail Price Variation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 35(1), pages 128-146, Spring.
    2. Engel, Charles, 1993. "Real exchange rates and relative prices : An empirical investigation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 35-50, August.
    3. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-659, September.
    4. Nakamura, Emi & Zerom, Dawit, 2008. "Accounting for Incomplete Pass-Through," MPRA Paper 14389, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Victor Aguirregabiria, 1999. "The Dynamics of Markups and Inventories in Retailing Firms," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 275-308.
    6. Patrick J. Kehoe & Virgiliu Midrigan, 2008. "Temporary price changes and the real effects of monetary policy," Working Papers 661, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. Christian Broda & David E. Weinstein, 2010. "Product Creation and Destruction: Evidence and Price Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 691-723, June.
    8. Joel Sobel, 1984. "The Timing of Sales," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 353-368.
    9. Xavier Drèze & David R. Bell, 2003. "Creating Win–Win Trade Promotions: Theory and Empirical Analysis of Scan-Back Trade Deals," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(1), pages 16-39, November.
    10. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Rebecca Hellerstein, 2013. "A Structural Approach to Identifying the Sources of Local Currency Price Stability," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(1), pages 175-210.
    11. Emi Nakamura & Jón Steinsson, 2008. "Five Facts about Prices: A Reevaluation of Menu Cost Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(4), pages 1415-1464.
    12. Burstein, Ariel T. & Neves, Joao C. & Rebelo, Sergio, 2003. "Distribution costs and real exchange rate dynamics during exchange-rate-based stabilizations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 1189-1214, September.
    13. Leibtag, Ephraim S. & Nakamura, Alice & Nakamura, Emi & Zerom, Dawit, 2007. "Cost Pass-Through In The U.S. Coffee Industry," Economic Research Report 7253, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    14. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Retail Pricing and Clearance Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 14-32, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • F40 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - General
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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