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Competing with Costco and Sam's Club: Warehouse Club Entry and Grocery Prices

  • Charles J. Courtemanche
  • Art Carden

Prior research shows grocery stores reduce prices to compete with Walmart Supercenters. This study finds evidence that the competitive effects of two other big box retailers - Costco and Walmart-owned Sam's Club - are quite different. Using city-level panel grocery price data matched with a unique data set on Walmart and warehouse club locations, we find that Costco entry is associated with higher grocery prices at incumbent retailers, and that the effect is strongest in cities with small populations and high grocery store densities. This could be explained by a segmented-market model, or by incumbents competing with Costco along non-price dimensions such as product quality or quality of the shopping experience. We find no evidence that Sam's Club entry affects grocery stores' prices, consistent with Sam's Club's focus on small businesses instead of consumers.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17220.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Publication status: published as Charles Courtemanche & Art Carden, 2014. "Competing with Costco and Sam's Club: Warehouse Club Entry and Grocery Prices," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 565-585, January.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17220
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  1. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2007. "Consumer benefits from increased competition in shopping outlets: Measuring the effect of Wal-Mart," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 1157-1177.
  2. Basker, Emek, 2005. "Selling a cheaper mousetrap: Wal-Mart's effect on retail prices," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 203-229, September.
  3. Ellickson, Paul B., 2006. "Quality competition in retailing: A structural analysis," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 521-540, May.
  4. Russell S. Sobel & Andrea M. Dean, 2006. "Has Wal-Mart Buried Mom and Pop?: The Impact of Wal-Mart on Self Employment and Small Establishments in the United States," Working Papers 06-05 Classification- JEL, Department of Economics, West Virginia University.
  5. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2009. "CPI Bias from Supercenters: Does the BLS Know that Wal-Mart Exists?," NBER Chapters, in: Price Index Concepts and Measurement, pages 203-231 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Emek Basker, 2005. "Job Creation or Destruction? Labor Market Effects of Wal-Mart Expansion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 174-183, February.
  7. Emek Basker & Michael Noel, 2009. "The Evolving Food Chain: Competitive Effects of Wal-Mart's Entry into the Supermarket Industry," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(4), pages 977-1009, December.
  8. Emek Basker, 2007. "When Good Instruments Go Bad," Working Papers 0706, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  9. Ellickson, Paul, 2005. "Does Sutton Apply to Supermarkets?," Working Papers 05-05, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  10. Stephan J. Goetz & Anil Rupasingha, 2006. "Wal-Mart and Social Capital," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 88(5), pages 1304-1310.
  11. Carden, Art & Courtemanche, Charles & Meiners, Jeremy, 2008. "Painting the Town Red? Wal-Mart and Values," Working Papers 09-5, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 01 Apr 2009.
  12. Neumark, David & Zhang, Junfu & Ciccarella, Stephen, 2007. "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," IZA Discussion Papers 2545, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Michael J. Hicks, 2007. "Job Turnover and Wages in the Retail Sector: The Influence of Wal-Mart," Journal of Private Enterprise, The Association of Private Enterprise Education, vol. 22(Spring 20), pages 137-160.
  14. Roger R. Betancourt, 2004. "The Economics of Retailing and Distribution," Books, Edward Elgar, number 3511.
  15. Courtemanche, Charles & Carden, Art, 2008. "Supersizing Supercenters? The Impact of Wal-Mart Supercenters on Body Mass Index and Obesity," Working Papers 09-3, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 29 Jan 2009.
  16. Dube, Arindrajit & Lester, T. William & Eidlin, Barry, 2007. "Firm Entry and Wages: Impact of Wal-Mart Growth on Earnings Throughout the Retail Sector," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt22s5k4pv, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  17. Art Carden & Charles Courtemanche, 2009. "Wal-Mart, Leisure, And Culture," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(4), pages 450-461, October.
  18. Paul B. Ellickson, 2007. "Does Sutton apply to supermarkets?," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(1), pages 43-59, 03.
  19. Art Carden & Charles Courtemanche & Jeremy Meiners, 2009. "Does Wal-Mart reduce social capital?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 138(1), pages 109-136, January.
  20. Richard J. Volpe III & Nathalie Lavoie, 2006. "The Effect of Wal-Mart Supercenters on Grocery Prices in New England," Working Papers 2006-8, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Resource Economics.
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