The Economics of Retail Firms
This paper identifies retail firms as an economic institution which delivers explicit products or services to consumer together with a variety of distribution services that determine the levels of distribution costs experienced by consumers in their purchase activities. The demand for the retailer's product is derived from a household production model in which the levels of distribution services provided by the retailer play the role of fixed inputs in the household's production functions. The supply of the retailer's product is derived from a joint cost function which is non-decreasing in the levels of distribution services provided. Profit-maximizing behavior in monopolistically competive markets shows that retail firms have special economic incentives to become complex organizations by integrating backwards, offering multiple explicit products and operating in more than one market. In addition, monopolistically competitive retail firms in long-run equilibrium will exhibit excess capacity, price dispersion and product choice in distribution services.