What Can the Price Gap between Branded and Private-Label Products Tell Us About Markups?

Posted: 15 Feb 2004

See all articles by Robert Barsky

Robert Barsky

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Mark E. Bergen

University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management

Shantanu Dutta

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Daniel Levy

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics; Emory University - Department of Economics; Rimini Center for Economic Analysis

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Abstract

We empirically study the market power of U.S. national brand manufacturers by estimating the size of markups for nationally branded products sold in the U.S. retail grocery industry. We use scanner data from a large Midwestern supermarket chain to compute several different measures of upper and lower bounds on national brand manufacturers' markup ratios for more than 230 nationally branded products in 19 categories. The method we use is based on the idea that retail and wholesale prices of private label products provide information on marginal costs that are also applicable to the appropriately matched nationally branded products. Under reasonable assumptions - the accuracy of which we consider in some detail - the wholesale price of a private label product is an upper bound for the marginal manufacturing cost of its nationally branded equivalent, while the retailer's margin on the national brand is an upper bound on the retailer's marginal handling cost for both the brand and private label versions. Using this methodology, we find that lower bounds on the 'full' markup ratio range from 3.44 for toothbrushes and 2.23 for soft drinks to about 1.15-1.20 for canned tuna and frozen entrees, with the majority of categories falling in the range 1.40-2.10. We find that lower bounds on manufacturers' markups are even higher. The data, therefore, indicate that markups on nationally branded products sold in U.S. supermarkets are large.

Keywords: Markup, Retail and Wholesale Price, Marginal Cost, National Brand, Private Label, Transaction Price Data, Upper and Lower Bounds on Markup, Market Power, Advertisement, Quality

JEL Classification: D4, E30, E31, E32, L10, L11, L15, L16, L8

Suggested Citation

Barsky, Robert B. and Bergen, Mark E. and Dutta, Shantanu and Levy, Daniel, What Can the Price Gap between Branded and Private-Label Products Tell Us About Markups?. SCANNER DATA AND PRICE INDEXES, Robert Feenstra, Matthew Shapiro, eds., National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Studies in Income and Wealth, Vol. 64, pp. 165-225, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=500423

Robert B. Barsky

Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

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Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Mark E. Bergen

University of Minnesota - Carlson School of Management ( email )

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Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States
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Shantanu Dutta

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

Hoffman Hall 701
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1427
United States
213-740-5038 (Phone)
213-740-7828 (Fax)

Daniel Levy (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics ( email )

Ramat-Gan, 5290002
Israel
+972 3 531-8345 (Phone)
+972 3 738-4034 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://econ.biu.ac.il/en/levy

Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )

1602 Fishburne Drive, Suite 306
Rich Building
Atlanta, GA 30322-0001
United States

HOME PAGE: http://economics.emory.edu/home/people/faculty/Levydaniel.html

Rimini Center for Economic Analysis ( email )

Wilfrid Laurier University
75 University Ave W.
Waterloo, Ontario N2L3C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://rcea.org/

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