Coping with Gray Markets: The Impact of Market Conditions and Product Characteristics
Gray markets, also known as parallel imports, are marketplaces for trading genuine products that are diverted from authorized distribution channels. They have created fierce competition for manufacturers in many industries and each year billions of dollars worth of products are traded in these markets. Using a game-theoretic model, we analyze the impact of parallel importation on a price-setting manufacturer that serves two markets with uncertain demand. We characterize the optimal joint price and quantity decisions of the manufacturer which determine whether the manufacturer should ignore, block, or allow parallel importation. We also show that parallel importation forces the manufacturer to reduce her price gap while demand uncertainty forces her to lower prices in both markets. Moreover, we observe that parallel importation may force the manufacturer to exit the low-profit market. Through extensive numerical experiments, we explore the impact of market conditions (size and price elasticity) and product characteristics (a fashion item or a commodity) on the manufacturer's reaction to parallel importation. In addition, we provide interesting insights about the value of strategic pricing for coping with gray markets versus the uniform pricing policy that has been adopted by some companies to eliminate gray markets.