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Selling a Cheaper Mousetrap: Wal-Mart's Effect on Retail Prices

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Abstract

I quantify the price effect of a low-cost entrant on retail prices using a case-study approach. I consider the effect of Wal-Mart entry on average city-level prices of various consumer goods by exploiting variation in the timing of store entry. The analysis combines two unique data sets, one containing opening dates of all US Wal-Mart stores and the other containing average quarterly retail prices of severalnarrowly-defined commonly-purchased goods over the period 1982-2002. I focus on 10 specific items likely to be sold at Wal-Mart stores and analyze their price dynamics in 165 US cities before and after Wal-Mart entry. An instrumental-variables specification corrects for measurement error in Wal-Mart entry dates. I find robust price effects for several products, including shampoo, toothpaste, and laundry detergent; magnitudes vary by product and specification, but generally range from 1.5-3% in the short run and four times as much in the long-run.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0401
    Note: Length: 36 pgs.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Wal-Mart; Competition; Prices; Market Size;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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