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Price variability or rigidity in the food-retailing sector? Theoretical analysis and evidence from German scanner data

  • Herrmann, Roland
  • Möser, Anke

In many industrialized countries, the grocery-retailing sector exhibits a strong and increasing market concentration. Hence, it is important to understand retail pricing for many questions related to market power in the marketing chain and to agricultural and food policies. We analyze intertemporal pricing of grocery retailers in Germany with a large set of scanner data for processed foods. In theory, food prices could be rather variable, e.g. due to fluctuating commodity prices in a competitive world, or rather rigid, e.g. due to price adjustment costs. We elaborate that retail sales are crucial and raise food price variability at the points of sale. Despite this, prices are rather rigid and often do not change for many weeks. Moreover, pricing strategies for identical brands vary strongly across retailers. Retailers seem to have differential pricing strategies and, thus, market power. This casts substantial doubt on the assumption of a competitive price transmission in the marketing channel underlying most analyses in agricultural economics.

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Paper provided by Justus Liebig University Giessen, Center for international Development and Environmental Research (ZEU) in its series Discussion Papers with number 11.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zeudps:26464
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.uni-giessen.de/cms/faculties/research-centers/zeu-en/view

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  1. Sheshinski, Eytan & Weiss, Yoram, 1977. "Inflation and Costs of Price Adjustment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(2), pages 287-303, June.
  2. Little, John D C & Shapiro, Jeremy F, 1980. "A Theory for Pricing Nonfeatured Products in Supermarkets," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(3), pages S199-209, July.
  3. Daniel Levy & Mark Bergen & Shantanu Dutta & Robert Venable, 2005. "The Magnitude of Menu Costs: Direct Evidence from Large U.S. Supermarket Chains," Macroeconomics 0505012, EconWPA.
  4. Rotemberg, Julio J, 1982. "Sticky Prices in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1187-1211, December.
  5. Daniel Hosken & David Reiffen, 2001. "Multiproduct retailers and the sale phenomenon," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(1), pages 115-137.
  6. Slade, Margaret E, 1998. "Optimal Pricing with Costly Adjustment: Evidence from Retail-Grocery Prices," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(1), pages 87-107, January.
  7. Cuddy, John D A & Della Valle, P A, 1978. "Measuring the Instability of Time Series Data," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 40(1), pages 79-85, February.
  8. Elizabeth Powers & Nicholas Powers, 2001. "The Size and Frequency of Price Changes: Evidence from Grocery Stores," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 397-416, June.
  9. Buccirosi & Marette & Schiavina, 2002. "Competition policy and the agribusiness sector in the European Union," Working Papers 155787, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France.
  10. Lach, Saul & Tsiddon, Daniel, 1996. "Staggering and Synchronization in Price-Setting: Evidence from Multiproduct Firms," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1175-96, December.
  11. Steve McCorriston, 2002. "Why should imperfect competition matter to agricultural economists?," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 29(3), pages 349-371, July.
  12. Dennis W. Carlton, 1986. "The Rigidity of Prices," NBER Working Papers 1813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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