Hierarchical Screening for Capacity Allocation in Supply Chains: The Role of Distributors



We consider a two-stage principal–agent screening environment in a decentralized supply chain with retailers, distributors, and a supplier. The retailers possess private information regarding their local market profitabilities. The distributors can partially observe the retailers' profitabilities and are heterogeneous with regard to the precision of that information. The supplier determines the level of production, but knows neither the local market profitabilities nor the precision of the distributors' information. The supplier first allocates finished products to distributors, and the distributors then contract with local retailers with a capacity constraint. We find that due to the distributors' superior information, the quantity distortion on the retailers' side is mitigated, and the upstream information asymmetry subsequently affects the quantity allocation among the downstream retailers. The supplier may not benefit from contracting with the distributors. In addition, no distributor is excluded based on the heterogeneity of the information precision, even though some distributors do not have better information than the supplier. In the numerical examples, we further analyze how the local market heterogeneity and inventory costs affect the capacity allocation, the retailers' payoffs, and the supply chain profits. We document some counter-intuitive quantity allocation rules that arise from the distributors' information advantage.