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Price Competition and the Impact of Service Attributes: structural estimation and analytical characterizations of equilibrium behavior

Margaret Pierson, 2012
Faculty Advisor: Awi Federgruen
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This dissertation addresses a number of outstanding, fundamental questions in operations management and industrial organization literature. Operations management literature has a long history of studying the competitive impact of operational, firm-level strategic decisions within oligopoly markets.

The first essay reports on an empirical study of an important industry, the drive-thru fast-food industry. We estimate a competition model, derived from an underlying Mixed MultiNomial Logit (MNML) consumer choice model, using detailed empirical data. The main goal is to measure to what extent waiting time performance, along with price levels, brand attributes, geographical and demographic factors, impacts competing firms' market shares.

The primary goal of our second essay is to characterize the equilibrium behavior of price competition models with Mixed Multinomial Logit (MMNL) demand functions under affine cost structures. In spite of the huge popularity of MMNL models in both the theoretical and empirical literature, it is not known, in general, whether a Nash equilibrium (in pure strategies) of prices exists, and whether the equilibria can be uniquely characterized as the solutions to the system of First Order Condition (FOC) equations.

The third essay, which is the most general in its context, we establish that in the absence of cost efficiencies resulting from a merger, aggregate profits of the merging firms increase as do equilibrium prices for general price competition models with general non-linear demand and cost functions as long as the models are supermodular, with two additional structural conditions: (i) each firm's profit function is strictly quasi-concave in its own price(s), and (ii) markets are competitive, i.e.,in the pre-merger industry, each firm's profits increase when any of his competitors increases his price, unilaterally. Even the equilibrium profits of the remaining firms in the industry increase, while the consumer ends up holding the bag, i.e., consumer welfare declines. As demonstrated by this essay, the answers to these sorts of strategy questions have implications not only for the firms and customers but also the policy makers policing these markets.

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