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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. Courtemanche, Charles & Carden, Art, 2011. "Supersizing supercenters? The impact of Walmart Supercenters on body mass index and obesity," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 165-181, March.
  2. Emek Basker, 2004. "Selling a Cheaper Mousetrap: Wal-Mart's Effect on Retail Prices," Working Papers 0401, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 16 Mar 2004.
  3. Noel, Michael & Basker, Emek, 2007. "The Evolving Food Chain: Competitive Effects of Wal-Mart's Entry Into The Supermarket Industry," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt4nq8d4sm, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
  4. 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.
  5. David Neumark & Junfu Zhang & Stephen Ciccarella, 2005. "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," NBER Working Papers 11782, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Ellickson, Paul, 2005. "Does Sutton Apply to Supermarkets?," Working Papers 05-05, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  8. Emek Basker, 2007. "When Good Instruments Go Bad," Working Papers 0706, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
  9. Richard J. Volpe & Nathalie Lavoie, 2008. "The Effect of Wal-Mart Supercenters on Grocery Prices in New England," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 30(1), pages 4-26.
  10. 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.
  11. Ellickson, Paul B., 2006. "Quality competition in retailing: A structural analysis," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 521-540, May.
  12. Jerry Hausman & Ephraim Leibtag, 2006. "Consumer Benefits from Increased Competition in Shopping Outlets: Measuring the Effect of Wal-Mart," CeMMAP working papers CWP06/06, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  13. Art Carden & Charles Courtemanche & Jeremy Meiners, 2009. "Does Wal-Mart reduce social capital?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 138(1), pages 109-136, January.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Paul B. Ellickson, 2007. "Does Sutton apply to supermarkets?," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 38(1), pages 43-59, 03.
  17. 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.
  18. Russell S. Sobel & Andrea M Dean, 2008. "Has Wal-Mart Buried Mom And Pop?: The Impact Of Wal-Mart On Self-Employment And Small Establishments In The United States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 46(4), pages 676-695, October.
  19. Roger R. Betancourt, 2004. "The Economics of Retailing and Distribution," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3511.
  20. Art Carden & Charles Courtemanche, 2009. "Wal-Mart, Leisure, And Culture," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 27(4), pages 450-461, October.
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