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Uniform Pricing in US Retail Chains

Author

Listed:
  • Stefano DellaVigna
  • Matthew Gentzkow

Abstract

We show that most US food, drugstore, and mass merchandise chains charge nearly-uniform prices across stores, despite wide variation in consumer demographics and the level of competition. Estimating a model of consumer demand reveals substantial within-chain variation in price elasticities and suggests that the average chain sacrifices seven percent of profits relative to a benchmark of flexible prices. In contrast, differences in average prices between chains broadly conform to the predictions of the model. As possible explanations for nearly-uniform pricing, we discuss advertising, tacit collusion, fairness concerns, and managerial fixed costs, and find the most support for the last explanation. We show that the uniform pricing we document significantly increases the prices paid by poorer households relative to the rich, likely dampens the overall response of prices to local economic shocks, and may also shift the incidence of intra-national trade costs.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano DellaVigna & Matthew Gentzkow, 2017. "Uniform Pricing in US Retail Chains," NBER Working Papers 23996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23996
    Note: CF EFG IO ITI LE LS ME PE PR
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ali Hortaçsu & Fernando Luco & Steven L. Puller & Dongni Zhu, 2017. "Does Strategic Ability Affect Efficiency? Evidence from Electricity Markets," NBER Working Papers 23526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Brian Adams & Kevin R. Williams, 2017. "Zone Pricing in Retail Oligopoly," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2079R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Apr 2017.
    3. Ben Shiller & Joel Waldfogel, 2011. "Music for a Song: An Empirical Look at Uniform Pricing and Its Alternatives," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(4), pages 630-660, December.
    4. Liran Einav & Ephraim Leibtag & Aviv Nevo, 2010. "Recording discrepancies in Nielsen Homescan data: Are they present and do they matter?," Quantitative Marketing and Economics (QME), Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 207-239, June.
    5. 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.
    6. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Gee Hee Hong, 2015. "The Cyclicality of Sales, Regular and Effective Prices: Business Cycle and Policy Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 993-1029, March.
    7. Jessie Handbury & David E. Weinstein, 2015. "Goods Prices and Availability in Cities," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 258-296.
    8. Eizenberg, Alon & Lach, Saul & Yiftach, Merav, 2016. "Retail Prices in a City," CEPR Discussion Papers 11590, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:pubeco:v:165:y:2018:i:c:p:48-72 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Friberg, Richard & Steen, Frode & Ulsaker, Simen A., 2018. "Hump-shaped cross-price effects and the extensive margin in cross-border shopping," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 29/2018, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    3. Itai Ater & Oren Rigbi, 2018. "The Effects of Mandatory Disclosure of Supermarket Prices," CESifo Working Paper Series 6942, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. repec:eee:indorg:v:59:y:2018:i:c:p:282-315 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ma, Meilin & Saitone, Tina L. & Volpe, Richard J. & Sexton, Richard J. & Saksena, Michelle, 2018. "Market Concentration, Market Shares, and Retail Food Prices: Evidence from the U.S. Women, Infants, and Children Program," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274205, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Ater, Itai & Rigbi, Oren, 2017. "The Effects of Mandatory Disclosure of Supermarket Prices," CEPR Discussion Papers 12381, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Harju, Jarkko & Kosonen, Tuomas & Skans, Oskar Nordström, 2018. "Firm types, price-setting strategies, and consumption-tax incidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 48-72.
    8. David Argente & Munseob Lee & Sara Moreira, 2018. "How do Firms Grow? The Life Cycle of Products Matters," 2018 Meeting Papers 1174, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    9. Basker, Emek & Vickers, Chris & Ziebarth, Nicolas L., 2018. "Competition, productivity, and survival of grocery stores in the Great Depression," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 282-315.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • M31 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Marketing

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