Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society

Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society / 2020 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2020 |Article ID 9352013 | 25 pages | https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/9352013

Game Theoretical Perspectives on Pricing Decisions in Asymmetric Competing Supply Chains

Academic Editor: Maria Alessandra Ragusa
Received10 Dec 2019
Revised28 Dec 2019
Accepted30 Dec 2019
Published19 Feb 2020

Abstract

This paper investigates a dual exclusive channel model in which each manufacturer distributes its goods through a single exclusive retailer, but two goods are substitute. The decision rule between two channels is Nash game in Case 1, while it is Stackelberg game in Case 2. From manufacturer Stackelberg (MS), retailer Stackelberg (RS), and Nash game (VN) theoretic perspectives, nine game models are developed to examine the effect of product substitutability and relative channel status on pricing decisions at both horizontal competition and vertical competition levels. The analysis suggests that the type of price leadership scenarios, the level of product substitutability, and the relative channel status play a significant role in decision making. For instance, in case 1, the symmetric leadership (two manufacturers or two retailers are leaders) is always the dominant strategy and equilibrium for either two manufacturers or two retailers regardless of product substitutability and relative channel status. Nevertheless, the asymmetric leadership may lead channel members to encounter a prisoner’s dilemma if the relative channel status is small. By contrast, in Case 2, the symmetric leadership is not the unique dominant strategy for either two manufacturers or two retailers. In contrast to many earlier results, we also show that whether the first-mover and the late-mover advantages exist, depending on the level of related channel status.

1. Introduction

The importance of pricing decision has been received significant attention in business and academics. It has been well known that cost and demand play a significant role in pricing decision. However, in practice, a firm’s pricing decision depends not only on its cost and demand but also on its position or bargaining power in the market. In particular, numerous previous studies have shown that price leadership has a major effect on firm performance and supply chain overall efficiency [15] and most of these studies focus on the leadership problem at the manufacturer or retailer level. Nevertheless, in a complex and competitive business environment, the individual businesses no longer compete as stand-alone entities, but rather as supply chains (including the competition at both manufacturer and retailer levels). For instance, in the competitive market of smartphones, Microsoft and Nokia constituted a supply chain to compete with other supply chains such as Google and Samsung. To address the above issues, we study a model of a competing supply chains, where in each supply chain, a manufacturer sells its product exclusively through a downstream retailer. As such, the model exists both manufacturer and retailer level competitions. As noted by McGuire and Staelin [6], there are a number of industries which can be represented by this structure, including gasoline, automobile, soft drinks, industrial/farm heavy equipment, and retail chains with large wholesalers supporting exclusive retail outlets, among others.

Our work is related to the large volume of literature on price leadership in the past several decades. Extant studies mainly focus on three game structures, that is, MS, RS, and VN games, where all manufacturers and retailers share equal, or balanced, decision-making power (the symmetric leadership situation). Such supply chains are quite common in practice; in reality, Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Home Depot are usually referred as power retailers; Caterpillar and Apple are often viewed as power manufacturers, while Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble are almost equal in bargaining. We relax this conventional assumption to introduce the asymmetric leadership situation and the horizontal Stackelberg competition (two channels have unequal power in determining pricing decisions) to our model. It is reasonable to introduce these two factors, because supply chains are generally comprised of individual members who often have different objectives, which always lead to the asymmetric leadership situation in the real world. Moreover, a channel into the market later may have a relatively lower barging power. Specifically, there is a horizontal Stackelberg competition between the two channels. A good example is that Coca-Cola entered the Chinese market very early, while Pepsi entered late, and Pepsi had to follow the retail price of Coca-Cola. Another example is that Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro are similar portable personal computers manufactured by Microsoft and Apple, respectively, but these two competitive electronic products were launched at different times. All these examples mean that the timing of product coming into the market has a significant effect on the performance of firms. In other words, there exist horizontal Stackelberg competitions among supply chains, the weaker supply chain makes his/her decisions only after observing the decisions of the power supply chain. Here, from the aforementioned analysis, we try to ask the following research questions:(i)What are the joint impacts of product substitutability and asymmetric channel status on the performance of channel members and the entire supply chain under different price leadership scenarios?(ii)What are the impacts of vertical and horizontal Stackelberg competitions on the optimal pricing decisions and the performance of channel members?(iii)Under what conditions will the first-mover advantage and the late-mover advantage exist?

To address the above issue, this paper intends to provide a novel answer to these questions, with explicit consideration of the effects of product substitutability and relative channel status on pricing decision under different price leadership scenarios of two cases. The game rule between two channels is Nash game in Case 1 (a dual exclusive channel without horizontal Stackelberg competition), while Stackelberg game in Case 2 (a dual exclusive channel with horizontal Stackelberg competition). Meantime, this paper considers the symmetric price leadership scenario as well as the asymmetric price leadership scenario. To differ from previous works for a single channel or a monopoly common retailer/manufacturer channel, this paper indicates that the type of price leadership scenarios, the level of product substitutability, and the relative channel status play a significant role in decision making. In particular, this paper makes contributions to three aspects. First, this paper extends the current literature related to pricing decision by considering a dual exclusive channel model from both vertical and horizontal Stackelberg competitions. Second, by using the game-theoretical approach, analytical equilibrium solutions are obtained in each of the nine price leadership scenarios. Third, this paper has five main findings: (1) in Case 1, the symmetric leadership is always the dominant strategy for channel members, while the asymmetric leadership may make the channel members encounter a prisoner’s dilemma; (2) in Case 1, the retailer could minimize its disadvantage of being a follower by a larger base market advantage and higher product substitutability; (3) in Case 2, the symmetric leadership is not the unique dominant strategy for either two manufacturers or two retailers; (4) in Case 2, whether the late-mover advantage and the first-mover advantage exist depends on the relative channel status; (5) whether the leadership is profitable for the whole channel depends on the level of product substitutability and the relative channel status no matter in Case 1 and Case 2.

The remainder of this study is organized as follows. We first review the related literature in Section 2. We then describe the model in section 3. Subsequently, we present the equilibrium results in Sections 4 and 5. The whole supply chain efficiency and consumers welfare are discussed to provide new managerial insight in Section 6. Lastly, we present conclusions and outlooks in Section 7, and all proofs are given in Appendix A.

2. Literature Review

This paper investigates the impacts of product substitutability and relative channel status on pricing competition under different price leadership scenarios at both vertical and horizontal levels. Thus, there are three streams of the literature related to this work: the first stream relates to price competition without horizontal Stackelberg competition, the second stream deals with price competition with horizontal Stackelberg competition and the third stream relates to the relative channel status. Meantime, the most related studies are presented in Table 1.


AuthorsChannel structureChannel statusLeadership statusLeadership competition
MCRMCMDESCSACSSLALWHCNHC

Choi [1]
Yang et al. [7]
Zhang et al. [8]
Edirisinghe et al. [9]
Chung and Lee [3]
This paper

MCR represents monopoly common retailer channel, MCM represents monopoly common manufacturer channel, DE represents dual exclusive channel, SCS represents symmetric channel status, ACS represents asymmetric channel status, SL represents symmetric price leadership, AL represents asymmetric price leadership, WHC represents channel structure with horizontal Stackelberg competition, and NHC represents channel structure without horizontal Stackelberg competition.

There has been an extensive literature on price competition without horizontal Stackelberg competition. We start our analysis with reviewing three common supply chain structures. The first supply chain structure related to the price leadership is a single channel. According to Seyedesfahan et al. [10], they study cooperative advertising and pricing decisions in a single-channel structure under MS, RS, VN, and cooperation games. Their research finding indicates that the cooperation game cannot always result in the highest profit for the entire supply chain. Then, Chaeb and Rasti-Barzoki [11] also investigate cooperative advertising and pricing decisions using a similar power structure setting. Their finding is consistent with [10] but from a different perspective. Shi et al. [12] explore the influence of leadership on both channel members and the entire supply chain with uncertain demand. They suggest that whether a firm gains more benefit by playing the leader’s role depends on the expected demand model but not on the demand shock model. Chen and Wang [13] investigated a smartphone supply chain consisting of a handset manufacturer and a telecom service operator under MS, RS, VN, and operator Stackelberg games. They demonstrate that the channel members always benefit from playing the Stackelberg leader, while the entire supply chain is always profitable in VN game than that of other games. Chen et al. [14] examine how different price leadership scenarios (MS, RS, and VN games) influence the coordination in a sustainable supply chain under a two-part tariff. They point out that the two-part tariff contract can coordinate the sustainable supply chain under different price leadership structures. The second supply chain structure is a monopoly common retailer channel that consists of two manufacturers and a retailer. In a seminal work on price leadership, Choi [1] develops a monopoly common retailer channel model, considering linear demand and nonlinear demand under MS, RS, and VN games. He demonstrates that a Stackelberg leader gains more profits from its leadership but hurts the followers. Zhao et al. [15] examine the pricing decisions of a monopoly common retailer channel structure under eight pricing game models, their observation shows that the leadership between two manufacturers and a common retailer does not affect the profit of the entire supply chain under Bertrand competition or cooperation strategy. Zhao et al. [16] extend this research by examining the pricing decisions of a similar channel structure under different price leadership scenarios. The third chain structure is a monopoly common manufacturer channel; Yang et al. [7] consider the pricing and quantity decisions of a monopoly manufacturer channel model under MS game, the total profit of the duopolistic retailers who act as the followers could gain more benefits than the manufacturer’s as long as the degree of dissimilarity between the duopolistic retailers’ market demands is large enough. However, most of the literature listed above neglect the competition at both retailer and manufacturer levels.

From the aforementioned analysis, very limited studies have attempted to examine the competition at both manufacturer and retailer levels, and hence this paper extends these models to the fourth channel structure: a dual exclusive channel structure. Our paper is most closely related to Zhang et al. [8]; they examine three games (MS, RS, and Nash games) in a dual exclusive channel. They demonstrate that it is a dominant strategy and equilibrium for channel members to play the Stackelberg leader regardless of product substitutability and relative channel status. However, they do not consider asymmetric leadership scenarios, namely, retailer 1 (manufacturer 1) and manufacturer 2 (retailer 2) acting as the Stackelberg leader. Meantime, our paper is also closely related to Chung and Lee’s study [3]. They develop a monopoly common retailer channel model, considering symmetric and asymmetric price leadership scenarios, under eight pricing game models. In reality, the channel into the market later may have a relatively lower barging power. Specifically, there is a horizontal Stackelberg competition between the two channels. However, both Zhang et al. [8] and Chung and Lee [3] do not consider the horizontal Stackelberg competition. Note that there are some papers investigating price decisions in a dual channel including a traditional channel and an online channel [17]. This paper extends the existing literature but considers the horizontal Stackelberg competition in a dual exclusive channel, which allows us to examine all the possible price leadership scenarios.

Research on horizontal pricing competition between two or more members in supply chains can be traced back to Jeuland and Shugan’s study [18]. Since then, increasing literature has focused on this problem. For example, Wu et al. [19] investigate the pricing decisions in a noncooperative supply chain that consists of two retailers and one common supplier under six price leadership structures. Wei et al. [5] study the pricing decisions of a monopoly common retailer channel model under five games, namely, MS-Bertrand, MS-Stackelberg, RS-Bertrand, RS-Stackelberg, and VN games; they suggest that the optimal prices and the maximum profits decrease with self-price and cross-price sensitivities. Ma and Li [20] investigate Bertrand–Stackelberg pricing decisions in a monopoly common retailer channel model with uncertain demand. Huang et al. [21] consider a pricing competition and a cooperation problem in a monopoly manufacturer channel model under six decentralized game models. Edirisinghe et al. [9] develop eight game models to examine the implications of channel power on supply chain stability in a monopoly common retailer channel model. Luo et al. [22] develop seven game models to examine the impact of leadership scenarios on the pricing decisions and the performance of the manufacturers and the retailer. Wang et al. [23] investigate the pricing and service decisions of complementary products in a dual-channel supply chain that consists of two manufacturers and one common retailer under three game models. Nevertheless, all the above literature has not investigated the pricing decisions in a dual exclusive channel under different price leadership scenarios. Li et al. [24] investigate the effect of product substitutability and relative channel status on pricing decisions under different leadership scenarios of three channel structures. Liu et al. [25] examine the emission reduction performance for supply chain members in both single channel and exclusive dual-channel structures. However, both Li et al. [24] and Liu et al. [25] neglect the impact of Nash games on pricing decisions from a vertical competition perspective.

Another area often neglected in the previous studies is that the two channels have asymmetric base market shares. For instance, Yang et al. [7] and Edirisinghe et al. [9] explore supply chain structures under symmetric and asymmetric relative channel status. However, all of them analyze numerically the effect of relative channel status on pricing decisions under different price leadership in a monopoly common retailer channel model or a monopoly manufacturer channel. To the best of our knowledge, few papers have focused on the joint effects of product substitutability and asymmetric related channel status on the value of price leadership in a dual exclusive channel. Additionally, there are some literatures to investigate the price leadership from empirical methods, such as Kadiyali et al. [26], Kuiper et al. [27], and Costa and Pavone [28]. In general, both analytical and empirical analyses show that the pricing decision critically depends on the leader-follower relationship.

3. The Model

This paper considers a dual exclusive channel [6, 2931] where each manufacturer sells a product exclusively through a franchised retailer but two goods are substitute, as illustrated in Figure 1. We mainly explore the impacts of asymmetric price leadership, asymmetric relative channel status, and product substitutability on the pricing decision of two cases (note that the focuses between Case 1 and Case 2 are different; we focus on the vertical Stackelberg competition in Case 1, while on the horizontal Stackelberg competition in Case 2). As shown in Figure 1(a), Case 1 is a dual exclusive channel without horizontal Stackelberg competition in which two channels are equally powerful in decision-making. The decision rule between the two channels is Nash game. Similarly, Case 2, as shown in Figure 1(b), is a dual exclusive channel with horizontal Stackelberg competition in which the weaker channel makes decision after the powerful channel.

To characterize demand for the dual exclusive channel models, we adopt the elegant framework by Ingene and Parry [32] and employ a utility function of a representative consumer from the perspective of aggregate demand as follows:where the index , represents different manufacturers, retailers, or channels. represents the demand for the product produced and sold by supply chain i. denotes product substitutability, implies the channels are purely monopolistic, as approaches 1, the two products toward being completely substitutable. is channel i’s initial base market. represents the retail price of retailer i, and represents the wholesale price of manufacturer i. It is worth noting that the utility function has since been widely utilized in the economics, marketing, and operations management literature [3337].

Maximization of the utility function yields the demand for different channels as follows:

The function form, which is more suitable to study the impact of production competition, is different from a commonly used demand function [38, 39].

To facilitate our discussion, we define, as the relative channel status, which will play the prime role of this research. If , channel 1’s initial base demand is larger than channel 2’s and vice versa. If , it means that the two channels is symmetric in the relative channel status; otherwise, the two channels are asymmetric. Note that, for Case 1, there exist three possible values (such that , and ), while or is required for Case 2. This is because the leader channel has the larger base demand if the follower channel is new to the market, that is . This setting can be referred to Huang et al. [21] and Edirisinghe et al.’s studies [9]. During a period of time of developing, the leader channel may have the same market share, that is, (note that this symmetry is meaningful because it presents the most drastic competition market.)

To enable fair comparison among the various price leadership scenarios and for simplicity, without loss of generality, we assume that the production costs and the operational costs are normalized to zero, a similar setting used in Chung and Lee [3] and Karray et al. [40]. Thus, the profits of manufacturer i and retailer i are, respectively, represented as follows:where parameter is manufacturer ’s profit, is retailer ’s profit, is channel ’s profit, and is the total profit of the entire supply chain. Furthermore, is the retail margin on product i.

Following the recommendations in Edirisinghe et al. [9], we also assume that a channel member is said to commit “power sacrifice” when he is willing to move a lower power position, thus foregoing the option of exercising his channel power. In this regard, each member has the possibility of being a leader because the dual exclusive channel is comprised of individual members who are often guided by conflicting objective functions, which leads to nine possible price leadership scenarios (note that this assumption is very important for us to examine the notion of structure dominance and equilibrium.).

4. Case 1: Dual Channel without Horizontal Stackelberg Competition

As a benchmark to evaluate pricing decisions under different price leadership scenarios, we first examine a dual exclusive channel without horizontal Stackelberg competition. There are nine possible price leadership scenarios under Case 1. Three of them are symmetric and the other six are asymmetric. In all nine subgames, each proceeds as a one-stage (e.g., NVV) or two-stage game (e.g., NMM and NMV). The game rule of the symmetric price leadership is straightforward (NMM: both manufacturers are the leaders of retailers; NRR: both retailers are the leaders of manufacturers; NVV: the manufacturers and retailers are equally powerful in determining optimal channel prices), which has been used in Zhang et al. [8] and Choi [41]. Thus, the derivation process of equilibrium solutions for the symmetric price leadership scenario is omitted in the following. The decision sequence of the asymmetric price leadership scenario is as follows. To facilitate the following discussions, we use superscripts M1, M2, R1, and R2 to denote manufacturer 1, manufacturer 2, retailer 1, and retailer 2, respectively.(a)Scenario NMRIn Scenario NMR, M1 and R2 are the Stackelberg leaders while R1 and M2 are the followers. In the first stage, M1 chooses a wholesale price using the response function of R1. Meantime, R2 chooses its margin using the response function of the M2. In the second stage, given a wholesale price and a retail price, R1 and M2 determine the retail price and the wholesale price, respectively.(b)Scenario NMVIn Scenario NMV, M1 is the Stackelberg leader while M2 and R2 are equally powerful. M1 chooses a wholesale price using R1’s reactions function in the first stage. In the second stage, given a wholesale price, R1 determines its retail price. In contrast, M2 and R2 make their pricing decisions simultaneously in Vertical Nash game.(c)Scenario NRVScenario NRV is similar to Scenario NMV, except that R1 becomes the Stackelberg leader. R1 chooses its margin anticipating M1’s reactions function in the first stage. In the second stage, M1 determines its wholesale price given the corresponding retail price. By contrast, M2 and R2 are equally powerful in determining their optimal prices in Vertical Nash game.

The decision sequence for the other three asymmetric price leadership scenarios (NRM, NVM, and NVR) can be obtained simply by switching indices 1 and 2. Furthermore, these equilibrium solutions for symmetric and asymmetric price leadership scenarios are summarized in Tables 2 and 3, respectively.


NMMNRRNVV



NMRNMVNRV


In the following subsections, we first compare the equilibrium solutions among different price leadership scenarios with symmetric relative channel status . Then, we examine the similar problems with the asymmetric setting . To simplify our exposition, we organized the discussion of this analysis by comparing the equilibrium results of different price leadership scenarios for channel 1 while holding fixed the price leadership scenario for channel 2 (i.e., NMj, NRj NVj, Mj, Rj and Vj, ). This setting allows us to check whether a channel member’s decision behavior affects the other one.

4.1. The Equilibrium Results with Symmetric Channel Status

Comparing the equilibrium profits of manufacturers, retailers, and channels under different price leadership scenarios gives us the following lemma. For brevity, we use PS to represent the product substitutability.

Lemma 1. Given a price leadership situation, the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 as a whole have the same preference from most to least favorable are given as follows,(i)Under MS, the preference list for the manufacturer is and for the retailer is regardless PS(ii)Under RS, the preference list is regardless of PS(iii)Under VN, the preference list is regardless of PS

Lemma 1 is counter-intuitive that the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 as a whole have the same preferences by holding fixed the price leadership situation. Under MS, Scenario NMV is the least preferred by both the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1, while the most preferred Scenario is NMM and NMR, respectively. As , , and , it is easy to verify that Scenario NMV results in the lowest profit for channel members due to the lowest demand and lowest price. Thus, Scenario NMV is least preferred by both the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1. However, it is difficult to verify that whether the most preferred Scenario is NMM. We attribute the result to the existing literature (e.g., Lee & Staelin [4]). It is intuitive that a price leader has a positive effect on the retailer’s margin but a negative effect on the demand. Moreover, the positive effect on price dominates its negative effect on demand. Thus, both the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 can be better off in Scenario NMM. Similar to that of MS game, we find that the least preferred Scenario is NRV/NVV and the most preferred Scenario is NRR/NRM or NVM/NVR.

We also obtain interesting results from the equilibrium profits of the manufacturer 2 and retailer 2. Specifically, these rank orders for the manufacturer 2 and retailer 2 are similar to that for the manufacturer 1 and retailer 1 in RS and VN games, for instance, and . Further, Scenarios NRV and NVV is least preferred by all channel members. In contrast, under MS, we find the rank order for the manufacturer 2 is , while reverse for the retailer 2. This is because a channel member is rewarded by playing the leader’s role at the expense of the other channel member who becomes the follower. This result is not surprising since the leader takes advantage of the follower’s reaction function and the follower simply accepts the leader’s strategy to maximize his/her own profit.

Then, we investigate which structure is a relative stable equilibrium for the exclusive channel. By comparing the equilibrium profits of manufacturer 1, retailer 1, and channel 1 among all price leadership scenarios derives the following result. Moreover, we summarize the computation results for channel 1 of all Scenarios in Table 4 (Note that the profit for channel i including manufacturer i’s and retailer i’s Optimal profits, which define as ).



NVM1111233
NVV2344445
NRR3223322
NMM4432111
NMV5555554

NVM = NVR, NMR = NRR = NRM, and NMV = NRV.

Theorem 1. From the horizontal competition perspective (Note that to avoid confusion in concept, the concept of “horizontal Stackelberg competition” in Corollary 1 involves the leadership competition as well the horizontal interaction. The term “the horizontal interaction” is defined in terms of the direction of a channel member’s reaction to the actions of its rival, while the concept of “horizontal competition” in Theorem 1 only involves the horizontal interaction.) the symmetric leadership is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for either two manufacturers or two retailers regardless of PS. However, the vertical Nash game is equilibrium for the manufacturer and the corresponding retailer from the vertical Stackelberg competition perspective. Meantime, the symmetric leadership has a positive effect on the efficiency of channels if PS is relatively high. That is,(i)The manufacturer 1’s preference list is regardless of PS, and Scenario NMM is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for the two manufacturers(ii)The retailer 1’s preference list is regardless of PS, and Scenario NRR is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for the two retailers(iii)The channel 1’s preference list is for , and Scenario NVV is the equilibrium for the two channels although it is not the dominant strategyHere, .

From the proof of Theorem 1, we obtain equilibrium results for the manufacturer 1: for any . In contrast, we also get equilibrium results for the retailer 1: for any . These rank orders show that the manufacturer 1 profit is higher in MS game, middle in VN game, and lower in RS game, and the result is reverse for the retailer 1; thus, the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 preference list is and , , respectively. Similarly, the channel 1 preference list can be obtained from Table 4. Furthermore, Table 4 gives us some interesting results. When the product substitutability is lower (e.g., ), the channel 1 always performs better in the VN game, which is consistent with Choi [41]. This is because of the negative effect of the follower’s loss on profit dominates its positive effect of the leader’s gain. As the product substitutability grows, such that , double marginalization is reduced by the intensified supply chain competition stimulated by the leadership. Thus, the channel 1 can be better off in MS game or RS game. Moreover, we find that Scenario NMV (NRV) always results in the lowest profits for both channel members and the channel 1 when the product substitutability is relatively small. Interestingly, Scenario NMV (NRV) could make the channel 1 better off if product substitutability is sufficiently intense (e.g., for ).

Theorem 1 differs from that of Zhang et al. [8]. This is because they only consider the symmetric price leadership game scenarios (e.g., NMM, NRR, and NVV games). When the asymmetric price leadership game scenarios are considered, we obtain interesting results that are new to the literature. For instance, from the horizontal competition perspective, we find that Scenario NMM is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for the two manufacturers, while Scenario NRR is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for the two retailers. Intuitively, the manufacturer 1 (2) or retailer 1 (2) can benefit from their own leadership, and both members have necessarily an incentive to play the leader’s role if all members are the possible leaderships (e.g., and ). Thus, the asymmetric leadership structure is not stable. In other words, the asymmetric leadership is never the equilibrium, while Scenario NMM or NRR is always the equilibrium from the horizontal competition perspective. On the other hand, the vertical Nash game is equilibrium for the manufacturer and the corresponding retailer from the vertical Stackelberg competition perspective. Interested readers can be referred to Choi [1], Mcguire and Staelin [6] and Choi [41] for an insightful discussion on the vertical Stackelberg competition. Theorem 1 also suggests that the channel equilibrium depends on the levels of product substitutability. In other words, both channels benefit from the channel absence of leaders when product substitutability is low. Hence, it is the equilibrium for both channels to choose VN game. It is worth noting that the symmetric vertical Nash structure is not a very stable leadership structure. However, VN game could make the channels worse off if the product substitutability is sufficiently intense. Therefore, the equilibrium becomes Scenario NMM or NRR.

4.2. The Equilibrium Results with Asymmetric Channel Status

In the previous subsection, we have discussed equilibrium solutions among different price leadership scenarios under symmetric related channel status. A question arises: does the asymmetric related channel status affect the equilibrium results for all members, even the whole channel? We are now positioned to compare these equilibrium solutions under asymmetric relative channel status. In order to have a meaningful comparison among different power structures, the common lower and upper bounds of the constrained areas are defined by and respectively, which can be derived from the nonnegative demand constraints: , . Due to the complexity of all boundary values, we use to denote the boundary values with various superscript and subscript combinations. Moreover, to facilitate our discussion, we use AS to denote the asymmetric related channel status.

Given a price leadership situation, then comparing among the three leadership structures give us the following lemma.

Lemma 2. Given a price leadership situation, the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 have the same preference under RS game or VS game, while the preference is different under MS game. That is,(i)Under MS, the manufacturer 1’s preference list is regardless of PS and AS, while the preference list for retailer 1 is if , regardless of PS(ii)Under RS, the preference list is regardless of PS and AS(iii)Under VN, the preference list is regardless of PS and ASHere and .

Lemma 2 is a special case of Lemma 1. Specifically, when , Lemma 2 degenerates into Lemma 1. Similar to the symmetric relative channel status scenario, Lemma 2 shows that the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 have the same preferences by holding fixed the price leadership situation under RS game and VN game. This result shows that the asymmetric relative channel status has no effect on the decision behaviors of all channel members under RS and VN games. Nevertheless, under MS game, as shown in Figure 2, when the relative channel status is small (e.g., ), the manufacturer 1 and the retailer 1 have the same preference sequence, which is consistent with Lemma 1. If the relative channel status increases such that , the preference sequence for the retailer 1 is . As the relative channel status continue to grow such that , the preference sequence for the retailer 1 becomes . This observation suggests that the asymmetric relative channel status has impacts on the decision making of channel members, which is sharply in contrast with Zhang et al. [8]. They point out that the asymmetric relative channel power does not affect the decision behaviors of the channel members; this is because they do not consider the asymmetric leadership situation.

Similarly, we also explore the same properties for channel 2, the rank orders for the manufacturer 2 are , and regardless of the asymmetric channel status and the product substitutability, whereas as a whole the rank orders are reverse for the retailer 2. It is straightforward that both manufacturer 2 and retailer 2 obtain more benefits from playing the leader’s role but hurts the followers. However, it is somewhat counter-intuitive that the retailer 2 obtains more benefits in Scenario NMM than that in Scenario NMV if , as shown in Figure 3, which means that the retailer 2 with the larger base market can be better off even if dominated by the manufacturer. This result is new to the existing literature.

Finally, we also investigate the joint effects of the channel substitutability and asymmetric channel status on the efficiency of the whole channel. Under MS game, the preference list is when relative channel status is small (e.g., ). As asymmetric channel status increases such that , Scenario NMR will dominate Scenario NMM; thus, the preference is . Interestingly, if the relative channel status is relatively high such that , the new preference becomes . Figure 4 graphically illustrates the phenomenon. Under RS or VN game, the preference list is similar to that of symmetric channel status. As for channel 2, most of the results are similar to the symmetric channel status case.

Similar to Theorem 1, comparing the equilibrium profits of manufacturer 1, retailer 1, and channel 1 of all price leadership scenarios provides us the following proposition.

Proposition 1. (i)The manufacturer 1’s preference list is if and is if (ii)The retailer 1’s preference list is if and is if Here, , , , and .

Proposition 1 is similar to the results of symmetric channel status case, it also shows that Scenario NMM/NMR (NRR/NRM) always results in higher profit for the manufacturer 1 (retailer 1) regardless of the asymmetric relative channel status and the product substitutability. Although the asymmetric price leadership (NMR/NRM) can be profitable for a channel member, the asymmetric price leadership is not the equilibrium for either the two manufacturers or the two retailers. Furthermore, the symmetric price leadership always results in the highest profits for channel members. Thus, the symmetric leadership is the dominant strategy and equilibrium for both channel members. But Proposition 1 also shows an interesting result when the asymmetric setting is introduced to the model. If the relative channel status is small, the asymmetric leadership may not necessarily guarantee more benefits to either the manufacturer 1 or the retailer 1 when the competing channel is absent of a leader and the related channel status is sufficiently small (e.g., for and for ), which is sharply in contrast with the previous studies. We should note that Chung and Lee [3] find that being a price leader is not always profitable for the retailer, but they suggest that the two manufacturers always gain more benefits from their leadership. The practical implication for the managers is that they should not only consider their own channel leadership situation but also the effect of the competing channel price leadership situation as well as the asymmetric relative channel status.

For the channel 1, we summarize all ranker orders in Table 5 due to many threshold values for the ranker orders. As shown in Table 5, we find some interesting result that Scenario NMM could make the channel get the best performance if the relative channel status is small (e.g., ), but Scenario NRR never leads the channel gain the best performance though it could result in higher profit under certain conditions. However, if the asymmetric channel status is relative high (e.g., ), the channel will get the worst performance in Scenario NMM. Similarly, we summarize the core insights in Theorem 2.


S1S2S3S4S5S6

NVM211111
NVV444322
NRR332233
NMM123445
NMV555554

, , , , , and . NVM = NVR, NMR = NRR = NRM, and NMV = NRV.

Theorem 2. From the horizontal competition perspective, the symmetric leadership is always the dominant strategy and equilibrium for either two manufacturers or two retailers regardless of the asymmetric related channel status and the product substitutability. Nevertheless, the asymmetric leadership may make the channel members encounter a prisoner’s dilemma if the relative channel status is small. Moreover, the symmetric leadership could have a positive effect on the efficiency of channel 1 when the asymmetric relative channel status is sufficiently low (e.g., ).

Theorem 2 is similar to Theorem 1, but it depicts the joint effects of the product substitutability and asymmetric channel status on the decision behaviors of all members. In particular, the asymmetric leadership may not necessarily guarantee more benefits for the leader than the follower if the relative channel status is small (e.g., for and for ), which implies that both the channel member and its rival prefer that neither of them play the leader’s role, but if either party does, then the other has incentive to be a leader. Thus, the leaders encounter a prisoner’s dilemma.

5. Case 2: Dual Channel with Horizontal Stackelberg Competition

Since the product substitutability and asymmetric channel status have an effect on the decision behaviors of all members under Case1, a question arises whether this finding applies to Case 2? To address this issue, we investigate by next considering a dual exclusive channel of a decision sequence, namely, the channel 1 acts as the Stackelberg leader and the channel 2 acts as the Stackelberg follower. This assumption is reasonable in the real world, which can be referred to Edirisinghe et al. [9]. Since the follower channel has the lower base demand if it is new to the market, that is . During a period of time of developing, the leader channel may have the same market share, that is . Therefore, the constrains, , must be given in the following analysis.

Similar to Case 1, Case 2 also contains nine price leadership scenarios. In contrast, each subgame proceeds as a two-stage, three-stage, or four-stage game in Case 2. The game rule of the symmetric price leadership is straightforward: MM, both manufacturers are the leaders of retailers, but M1 is powerful than M2, in other words, M1 is the leader of all other members; RR, R1 is the leader of all other members; VV, M1 (M2) and R1 (R2) are equally powerful in making decision, and M1 (R1) is more powerful than M2 (R2). Similarly, the equilibrium solutions with symmetric and asymmetric price leadership scenarios are summarized in Tables 6 and 7, respectively.(a)MR: in this scenario, M1 is the leader of R1 as well as the leader of M2 and R2. Therefore, M1 announces a wholesale price using the response function of R1 who is already using the response function of R2 in the first stage. In the second stage, R1 sets up a retail price condition on the wholesale price of M1 as well as the response function of R2. Moreover, R2 is already using the reaction function of M2 to set its retail price in the third stage. In the fourth stage, given a retail price, M2 determines its wholesale price.(b)MV: in this scenario, M1 is the leader of the other channel members, whereas neither M2 nor R2 is the leader. In the first stage, M1 announces a wholesale price using the response function of the R1. R1 decides its retail price using the response function of R2 in the second stage. In the third stage, M2 and R2 simultaneously make the pricing decisions.(c)RV: in this scenario, R1 is the leader of the other channel members while M2 and R2 are equally powerful. In the first stage, R1 chooses a retail price using M1’s response function. M1 decides its wholesale price using R2’s response function in the second stage. In the third stage, M2 and R2 simultaneously determine their optimal prices.


MMRRVV