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When to carry eccentric products? Optimal retail assortment under consumer returns

  • Aydm Alptekinoglu
  • Alex Grasas León
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    To understand whether retailers should consider consumer returns when merchandising, we study how the optimal assortment of a price-taking retailer is influenced by its return policy. The retailer selects its assortment from an exogenous set of horizontally differentiated products. Consumers make purchase and keep/return decisions in nested multinomial logit fashion. Our main finding is that the optimal assortment has a counterintuitive structure for relatively strict return policies: It is optimal to offer a mix of the most popular and most eccentric products when the refund amount is sufficiently low, which can be viewed as a form of risk sharing between the retailer and consumers. In contrast, if the refund is sufficiently high, or when returns are disallowed, optimal assortment is composed of only the most popular products (a common finding in the literature). We provide preliminary empirical evidence for one of the key drivers of our results: more eccentric products have higher probability of return – conditional on purchase. In light of our analytical findings and managerial insights, we conclude that retailers should take their return policies into account when merchandising.

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    Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1272.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2011
    Date of revision: Nov 2012
    Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1272
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    1. Train,Kenneth E., 2009. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521747387.
    2. A. Gürhan Kök & Yi Xu, 2011. "Optimal and Competitive Assortments with Endogenous Pricing Under Hierarchical Consumer Choice Models," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(9), pages 1546-1563, February.
    3. V. Daniel R. Guide , Jr. & Gilvan C. Souza & Luk N. Van Wassenhove & Joseph D. Blackburn, 2006. "Time Value of Commercial Product Returns," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(8), pages 1200-1214, August.
    4. Wallace J. Hopp & Xiaowei Xu, 2005. "Product Line Selection and Pricing with Modularity in Design," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 7(3), pages 172-187, August.
    5. Jeffrey D. Shulman & Anne T. Coughlan & R. Canan Savaskan, 2009. "Optimal Restocking Fees and Information Provision in an Integrated Demand-Supply Model of Product Returns," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 11(4), pages 577-594, December.
    6. Gérard P. Cachon & A. Gürhan Kök, 2007. "Category Management and Coordination in Retail Assortment Planning in the Presence of Basket Shopping Consumers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(6), pages 934-951, June.
    7. Sridhar Moorthy & Kannan Srinivasan, 1995. "Signaling Quality with a Money-Back Guarantee: The Role of Transaction Costs," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 14(4), pages 442-466.
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