Econometrica: Nov 2008, Volume 76, Issue 6

What Happens When Wal‐Mart Comes to Town: An Empirical Analysis of the Discount Retailing Industry

https://doi.org/10.3982/ECTA6649
p. 1263-1316

Panle Jia

In the past few decades multistore retailers, especially those with 100 or more stores, have experienced substantial growth. At the same time, there is widely reported public outcry over the impact of these chain stores on other retailers and local communities. This paper develops an empirical model to assess the impact of chain stores on other discount retailers and to quantify the size of the scale economies within a chain. The model has two key features. First, it allows for flexible competition patterns among all players. Second, for chains, it incorporates the scale economies that arise from operating multiple stores in nearby regions. In doing so, the model relaxes the commonly used assumption that entry in different markets is independent. The lattice theory is exploited to solve this complicated entry game among chains and other discount retailers in a large number of markets. It is found that the negative impact of Kmart's presence on Wal‐Mart's profit was much stronger in 1988 than in 1997, while the opposite is true for the effect of Wal‐Mart's presence on Kmart's profit. Having a chain store in a market makes roughly 50% of the discount stores unprofitable. Wal‐Mart's expansion from the late 1980s to the late 1990s explains about 40–50% of the net change in the number of small discount stores and 30–40% for all other discount stores. Scale economies were important for Wal‐Mart, but less so for Kmart, and the magnitude did not grow proportionately with the chains' sizes.

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