Dynamic price competition with fixed capacities
Many revenue management (RM) industries are characterized by (a) fixed capacities in the short term (e.g., hotel rooms, seats on an airline flight), (b) homogeneous products (e.g., two airline flights between the same cities at similar times), and (c) customer purchasing decisions largely influenced by price. Competition in these industries is also very high even with just two or three direct competitors in a market. However, RM competition is not well understood and practically all known implementations of RM software and most published models of RM do not explicitly model competition. For this reason, there has been considerable recent interest and research activity to understand RM competition. In this paper we study price competition for an oligopoly in a dynamic setting, where each of the sellers has a fixed number of units available for sale over a fixed number of periods. Demand is stochastic, and depending on how it evolves, sellers may change their prices at any time. This reflects the fact that firms constantly, and almost costlessly, change their prices (alternately, allocations at a price in quantity-based RM), reacting either to updates in their estimates of market demand, competitor prices, or inventory levels. We first prove existence of a unique subgame-perfect equilibrium for a duopoly. In equilibrium, in each state sellers engage in Bertrand competition, so that the seller with the lowest reservation value ends up selling a unit at a price that is equal to the equilibrium reservation value of the competitor. This structure hence extends the marginal-value concept of bid-price control, used in many RM implementations, to a competitive model. In addition, we show that the seller with the lowest capacity sells all its units first. Furthermore, we extend the results transparently to n firms and perform a number of numerical comparative statics exploiting the uniqueness of the subgame-perfect equilibrium.
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