Measuring the Impact of Increased Product Substitution on Pricing and Capacity Decisions Under Linear Demand Models

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Abstract

We consider two substitutable products and compare two alternative measures of product substitutability for linear demand functions that are commonly used in the literature. While one leads to unrealistically high prices and profits as products become more substitutable, the results obtained using the other measure are in line with intuition. Using the more appropriate measure of product substitutability, we study the optimal investment mix in flexible and dedicated capacities in both monopoly and oligopoly settings. We find that the optimal investment in manufacturing flexibility tends to decrease as the products become closer substitutes; this is because (1) pricing can be used more effectively to balance supply and demand, and (2) the gains obtained by shifting production to the more profitable product are reduced due to increased correlation between the price potentials of the substitutable products. The value of flexibility always increases with demand variability. We also show that, as long as the optimal investments in dedicated capacity for both products are positive, the optimal expected prices and production quantities do not depend on the cost of the flexible capacity. Manufacturing flexibility simply allows the firm to achieve those expected values with lower capacity, while leading to higher expected profits.

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