NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Product Variety and Demand Uncertainty

Dennis W. Carlton, James D. Dana

NBER Working Paper No. 10594
Issued in June 2004
NBER Program(s):   IO

We show that demand uncertainty leads to vertical product differentiation even when consumers are homogeneous. When a firm anticipates that its inventory or capacity may not be fully utilized, product variety can reduce its expected costs of excess capacity. When the firm offers a continuum of product varieties, the highest quality product has the highest profit margins but the lowest percentage margin, while the lowest quality product has the highest percentage margin but the lowest absolute margin. We derive these results in both a monopoly model and a variety of different competitive models. We conclude with a discussion of empirical predictions together with a brief discussion of supporting evidence available from marketing studies.

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Published: Carlton, Dennis W. and James D. Dana Jr. “Product Variety and Demand Uncertainty: Why Mark-ups Vary with Quality.” Journal of Industrial Economics (2008).

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