Three essays on empirical studies of consumer behavior
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This dissertation is an empirical study of demand and supply in differentiated products markets using supermarket scanner data on two particular product categories - canned tuna and hot-breakfast cereals. First, I study the impact of retailers' price promotions on consumer demand and retailer profits in the canned-tuna product category. Since canned tuna is storable, I examine whether consumers stock up during sales. The results suggest that only a limited amount of stockpiling exists in this product category. Since inventory is not very important, consumer demand is thus modeled by a static demand model with a random-coefficients-nested-logit specification, which is estimated by the Markov Chain Monte Carlo method. The unit-sales decomposition results show that on average 36% of the demand response to price promotions comes from brand-switching, so market expansion effects due to consumers switching from the outside good and to higher quantities usually dominate the brand-switching effect. Using the demand estimates, I compute optimal retail prices assuming that stores are local monopolists and choose prices to maximize static category-level profits. I find that regular prices at "high-low" stores are typically at or slightly below the optimal prices, but that regular prices at "every-day-low-price" stores are substantially below the optimal prices. These results suggest that retail price levels and price promotions are more likely related to local market conditions such as retail competition. In addition, I study the effects of store-brand (SB) entry on the demand elasticities of incumbent national brands (NB), consumers' substitution patterns for national and store brands, and the implications for consumer welfare in the hot-breakfast-cereals product category. A random-coefficients model of consumer demand is estimated by the generalized-method-of-moments approach. The empirical findings are: (1) After the entry of SB's, demand becomes more elastic for non-imitated NB's, and either more elastic or shows no change for imitated NB's; (2) in general, substitution patterns for NB's and SB's are asymmetric, i.e., when the prices of their favorite products increase, most NB buyers tend to substitute to other NB products, but SB buyers will substitute to the corresponding imitated NB's; (3) the increase in consumer surplus due to SB entry is trivial for an individual consumer, but the aggregate benefit could be quite substantial.