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Keywords:

  • supply chain management;
  • coordinating contracts;
  • product line distribution;
  • price and inventory competition

Although there is a rich literature on single product distribution in decentralized supply chains, the incentive problems that arise in distributing a product line have largely not been investigated. In practice, most manufacturers distribute a line of products with different features and qualities and not just a single product. Consider a manufacturer who distributes a product line through competing downstream retailers. In this setting, we investigate how and why the retailers' price and inventory decisions deviate from the centrally optimal decisions. Due to substitution between different product variants, as well as between different retailers, the incentive problems associated with distributing a product line are more complicated than that of distributing a single product. We characterize retailers' incentive distortions under a residual-claimancy contract, and construct contracts that achieve channel coordination. We show that retail price floors or inventory buybacks, appropriately tailored to each product variant, are among the contracts that can achieve coordination. Using numerical simulations, we demonstrate how the optimal contract terms (such as wholesale prices and buyback prices) for each variant are influenced by the parameters of an underlying consumer choice model.