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Price Setting in a Forward-Looking Customer Market

Author

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  • Emi Nakamura

    (Harvard University)

  • Jon Steinsson

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

We propose a new explanation for price rigidity. We show that if consumers form habits in individual goods, then firms face a time- inconsistency problem. The consumers’ habits imply that low prices in the future help attract customers in the present. Firms would therefore like to promise low prices in the future. But when the future arrives they have an incentive to exploit consumers’ habits and price gouge. In this model, unlike the standard no-habit model, nominal price rigidity is an equilibrium outcome. Equilibrium price rigidity can be sustained because rigid prices help firms overcome the time-inconsistency problem. If customers have incomplete information about firms’ desired prices, the optimal policy for the firm is to commit to a “price cap”. Our model therefore provides an explanation for the simultaneous existence of a rigid regular price and frequent sales, a pattern that is difficult to reconcile with existing menu cost models or price rigidity. Our model also explains survey evidence on firms’ fears of adverse customer reactions to price changes, the fact that firms make open commitments to customers not to change their prices, the tendency of price rigidity to increase with the frequency of repeat purchases and the tendency of prices to be more rigid to existing customers than new customers.

Suggested Citation

  • Emi Nakamura & Jon Steinsson, 2005. "Price Setting in a Forward-Looking Customer Market," Macroeconomics 0509010, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpma:0509010
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bernardo Guimaraes & Kevin D. Sheedy, 2011. "Sales and Monetary Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 844-876, April.
    2. Cabral, Luís & Fishman, Arthur, 2012. "Business as usual: A consumer search theory of sticky prices and asymmetric price adjustment," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 371-376.
    3. Daniel Levy & Dongwon Lee & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Robert J. Kauffman & Mark Bergen, 2011. "Price Points and Price Rigidity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1417-1431, November.
    4. Di Pace, F. & Faccini, R., 2012. "Deep habits and the cyclical behaviour of equilibrium unemployment and vacancies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 183-200.
    5. David M. Arseneau & Ryan Chahrour & Sanjay K. Chugh & Alan Finkelstein Shapiro, 2015. "Optimal Fiscal and Monetary Policy in Customer Markets," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 47(4), pages 617-672, June.
    6. Bartosz Mackowiak & Frank Smets, 2008. "On implications of micro price data for macro models," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 53.
    7. Filip Matějka, 2016. "Rationally Inattentive Seller: Sales and Discrete Pricing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 1125-1155.
    8. Jean-Paul L'Huillier, 2012. "Consumers' Imperfect Information and Price Rigidities," EIEF Working Papers Series 1209, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised Aug 2012.
    9. Heidhues, Paul & Koszegi, Botond, 2014. "Regular prices and sales," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(1), January.
    10. François Gourio & Leena Rudanko, 2014. "Customer Capital," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 1102-1136.
    11. David M. Arseneau & Sanjay K. Chugh, 2007. "Bargaining, fairness, and price rigidity in a DSGE environment," International Finance Discussion Papers 900, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. George A. Akerlof, 2007. "The Missing Motivation in Macroeconomics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 5-36, March.
    13. Laura Veldkamp & Chris Edmond, 2006. "Income Dispersion, Asymmetric Information and Fluctuations in Market Efficiency," Working Papers 06-13, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
    14. Ali Choudhary & Thorlakur Karlsson & Gylfi Zoega, 2009. "Survey Evidence on Customer Markets," Birkbeck Working Papers in Economics and Finance 0916, Birkbeck, Department of Economics, Mathematics & Statistics.
    15. Filip Matejka, 2011. "Rigid Pricing and Rationally Inattentive," 2011 Meeting Papers 749, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    16. Kleshchelski, Isaac & Vincent, Nicolas, 2009. "Market share and price rigidity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 344-352, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Time-inconsistency; Price Rigidity; Habit Formation; Asymmetric Information.;

    JEL classification:

    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)

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