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Imports "R" Us: Retail Chains as Platforms for Developing-Country Imports

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Abstract

Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us, and other large retail chains are often identified with cheap imports. We use data from the Census of Retail Trade and the International Trade Commission over the period 1997-2002 to test whether big chains serve as platforms for imports from LDCs. Using difference-in-difference specifications we show that Chinese and other LDC imports have increased disproportionately in retail sectors with the sharpest consolidation into chains. To quantify the importance of chain growth to import growth we apply a numerical algorithm that generates marginal propensities to import by firm size. The largest retail firms' propensity to import from China is 17 percentage points higher than that of smaller retailers; the corresponding difference in import propensities from LDCs as a whole is 27 points. The disproportionate growth of large retailers between 1997 and 2002 explains 5% of the overall growth in consumer goods imports, 20% of the growth in consumer goods imports from China, and 22% of the growth in consumer goods imports from LDCs..

Suggested Citation

  • Emek Basker & Pham Hoang Van, 2008. "Imports "R" Us: Retail Chains as Platforms for Developing-Country Imports," Working Papers 0804, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised 12 Aug 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:umc:wpaper:0804
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Carolyn L. Evans & James Harrigan, 2005. "Distance, Time, and Specialization: Lean Retailing in General Equilibrium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 292-313, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dimitra Petropoulou, 2007. "Information Costs, Networks and Intermediation in International Trade," Economics Series Working Papers 370, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. Angela Cheptea & Charlotte Emlinger & Karine Latouche, 2012. "Multinational Retailers and Home Country Exports," Post-Print hal-01208840, HAL.
    3. Carl Gaigné & Karine Latouche & Stéphane Turolla, 2015. "Vertical ownership and export performance: firm-level evidence from France," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 15-07, INRA UMR SMART-LERECO.
    4. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen J. Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "Wholesalers and Retailers in US Trade," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 408-413, May.
    5. Blanchard, Emily & Chesnokova, Tatyana & Willmann, Gerald, 2013. "Private labels and international trade: Trading variety for volume," Kiel Working Papers 1829, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    6. Horst Raff & Nicolas Schmitt, 2016. "Manufacturers and retailers in the global economy," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 49(2), pages 685-706, May.
    7. Andrew B. Bernard & J. Bradford Jensen & Stephen Redding & Peter K. Schott, 2010. "Wholesalers and Retailers in U.S. Trade (Long Version)," CEP Discussion Papers dp0968, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    8. Holmes, Thomas J. & Singer, Ethan, 2017. "Indivisibilities in Distribution," Working Papers 739, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    9. Anders Akerman, 2018. "A theory on the role of wholesalers in international trade based on economies of scope," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 51(1), pages 156-185, February.
    10. Raff, Horst & Schmitt, Nicolas, 2009. "Imports, pass-through, and the structure of retail markets," Kiel Working Papers 1556, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    11. Silva, Peri, 2011. "The role of importers and exporters in the determination of the U.S. tariff preferences granted to Latin America," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 207-219, March.
    12. Raff, Horst & Trofimenko, Natalia, 2013. "World market access of emerging-market firms: The role of foreign ownership and access to external finance," Kiel Working Papers 1848, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    13. Nunn, Nathan & Trefler, Daniel, 2014. "Domestic Institutions as a Source of Comparative Advantage," Handbook of International Economics, Elsevier.
    14. O’Connor, Neale G. & Vera-Muñoz, Sandra C. & Chan, Francis, 2011. "Competitive forces and the importance of management control systems in emerging-economy firms: The moderating effect of international market orientation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 246-266.
    15. Head, Keith & Jing, Ran & Swenson, Deborah L., 2014. "From Beijing to Bentonville: Do multinational retailers link markets?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 79-92.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Imports; Retail Chains;

    JEL classification:

    • F12 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Models of Trade with Imperfect Competition and Scale Economies; Fragmentation
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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