Financial Returns to Household Inventory Management
55 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2020 Last revised: 19 Oct 2022
Date Written: August 2020
Households tend to hold substantial amounts of non-financial assets in the form of consumer goods inventories that are unobserved by traditional measures of wealth, about $1,100 on average. Households can obtain significant financial returns from shopping strategically and optimally managing these inventories. In addition, they choose to maintain liquid savings – household working capital – not just for precautionary motives but also to support this inventory management. We demonstrate that households with low levels of inventory earn high returns from investing in household working capital, well above 20%, though returns decline rapidly as inventory levels increase. We provide evidence from scanner and survey data that supports this conclusion. High returns from inventory management that are declining in wealth offer a new rationale for poorer households not to participate in risky financial markets, while wealthier households invest in both financial assets and household working capital.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation