Direct-to-Consumer Sales by Manufacturers and Bargaining
43 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 5, 2021
Cutting out the intermediary and selling directly to consumers is an increasingly common strategy by manufacturers in many industries. We develop a structural model of vertical relations where manufacturers both bargain with retailers over wholesale prices and sell their products directly to consumers. We show that direct sales by manufacturers generate two effects that have opposing impact on welfare. First, direct sales generate potential welfare gains to consumers downstream due to additional competition and product variety. Second, in the upstream, there is an increase in the bargaining leverage of the manufacturers selling directly to consumers. Negotiated wholesale prices increase, thus increasing final prices to consumers and decreasing consumer welfare. We show how our model can be used to quantify the bargaining leverage and welfare effects of direct sales. We estimate our model using data from the outdoor advertising industry and use the estimated model to simulate counterfactual scenarios to isolate these effects. We conclude by discussing the relevance of the bargaining leverage effect for vertical merger evaluation.
Keywords: Direct-to-consumer sales, bargaining, vertical mergers, advertising
JEL Classification: D43, L13, L42, L51, L81, M37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation