Competition Between The Three Major Supermarkets Economics

For my Extended Essay, I decided to look into the competition between the three major supermarkets in my local country, and whether they collude or non, motivating my research inquiry: To what extent do the larger supermarkets in my local country collude with each other? By analyzing informations collected on pricing from the three supermarkets, it was found that two of the three supermarkets at manus colluded tacitly with each other, under and oligopoly market construction. The monetary values of 15 indistinguishable monetary values were recorded across a clip span of three hebdomads.

The analyses of these monetary values lead to two decisions. First, it was found that two supermarkets colluded with each other, but still had non-price competition between them. This was chiefly due to the advantage of the two shops moving as a monopoly by bear downing the same monetary value. This allowed the two supermarkets to do unnatural net income, which in bend they used to make a stronger trade name trueness, and therefore, a more inelastic demand curve. Second, it was found one of the supermarkets was underselling the other two supermarkets monetary values.

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The chief ground for this was that the supermarket could derive greater gross at the clip by underselling challengers, due to holding more clients. These findings show that there was collusion between larger supermarkets in my country, but non between all supermarkets. Finally, the essay could be improved if I included more merchandises in my informations aggregation, every bit good as roll uping the information over a longer clip period.


Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys are the three chief supermarkets that constitute hebdomadal shopping for the populace in my local country, west Charlton. These three supermarkets are recognised for their huge scope in goods and at low-cost monetary values. It is no surprise so that in footings of market portion, they each comprise the top three topographic points for holding the most market portion in the U.K.1 During the last twosome of old ages, though, I have noticed that many of the smaller supermarkets in the same country have begun to shut down.

Since inscribing in the IB Higher Economics class and analyzing market constructions in peculiar, Ive developed an involvement into how supermarkets compete with each other, or even, how they collude together. Possibly, given their big clasp of the market portion, the benefits from collusion would be matchless compared to other smaller supermarkets, in footings of increased gross revenues gross. Besides, formal collusion, one of two signifiers of collusion, is illegal as it goes against the Competition Act 1998 ( the Act ) Chapter 12.

Therefore, the research inquiry I have formulated is To what extent do the larger supermarkets in my local country collude with each other?

To be able to research this research inquiry, I will foremost show a sum-up of the supermarkets, where the features of them will be described. This will take on to my following subdivision where I will discourse relevant theoretical market constructions and associate economic theories to them. After I have presented these theories, I will speculate which market construction is equal for the supermarkets present, therefore making a sufficient research design where the monetary values of similar merchandises will be compared. Finally, I will analyze the collected informations and turn out or confute my research inquiry, taking to a decision of my essay and researching possible restrictions.

Market Summary

In the country I am analyzing there are three chief supermarkets ; Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys, situated in West Charlton  Each supermarket is similar in size, fulfilling the huge demands of the dwellers in the country. It is deserving adverting that due to the supermarkets being of a significant size structurally, there must hold been big start up costs. Each of the three engages in non-price competition. This includes things such as advertisement on T.V, holding parking countries and the usage of trade name names. The offerings of these services are in the effort to pull more clients.

Take for illustration, Asda, which has parking every bit good as assorted sectors to its shops such as electrical and vesture subdivisions every bit good as food markets. The purpose of this is that clients can see merely this shop by fulfilling all their demands from the huge offers of goods. Furthermore, each supermarket advertises their trade name names to derive more clients due to the trade name trueness it has established. This could do their demand curve more inelastic, intending that an addition in the monetary value of a good would ensue in the increased gross transcending the decrease of measure sold.

These three supermarkets besides dictate the bulk of market portion, as I have mentioned. Last, it is deserving adverting that Sainsburyis and Asda are unfastened for 24 hours from Tuesday to Friday, otherwise it is from 7 in the forenoon to 11 in the eventide. Tesco are unfastened from 7 to 11 everyday, apart from Sunday when they open an hr subsequently and shut an hr earlier. I doni??t think that the somewhat lesser hours that Tesco is opened during the hebdomad will impact my research much, or at all. This is due to the fact that I doni??t believe Tesco make much of their gross revenues between midnight and 7 in the forenoon.


I will now show the four types of market construction theories and their premises. I will non traveling into great item on the construction of a monopoly as this is non a possible market construction for the supermarkets, given the fact that there is obviously more than one house in the country. This is the same for perfect competition, as the goods produced by supermarkets are non indistinguishable.

  • First, I will show the market construction of a monopolistic competition. The premises of this market construction are3:
  • The industry is made up by a big figure of houses
  • The houses each act independently of each other, due to each house being little, comparative to the size of the industry
  • The houses produce differentiated merchandises ; consumers can state one merchandise from another
  • Firms are free to come in and go out the industry, due to miss of barriers to entry and issue
  • Firms are able to do unnatural net incomes in the short tally, nevertheless due to miss of barriers to entry ; this attracts other houses into the industry. This means that in the long tally, merely normal net incomes are able to be made

Due to the fact that the supermarkets in inquiry are of a significant size, I believe that the start up cost in itself will be of a great barrier to entry. Besides, I doni??t believe the industry I am analyzing is made up of a big figure of houses, as there are merely three supermarkets of their type in the local country.

Another market construction that the supermarkets could come under is an oligopoly. These are the basic premise of an Oligopoly:

  • A few houses dominate the industry
  • There are barriers to entry and/or issue for the industry
  • The houses are monetary value shapers as they have a downward sloping demand curve
  • The houses are mutualist ; the action of one house can hold an consequence on another
  • Abnormal net incomes can be made both in the short tally and long tally

In add-on to these premises, houses in an Oligopoly can be either conniving or non-collusive.

Due to the kinked demand curve, monetary value will be stabilized at monetary value i??Pi?? . This happens as the Price snap of Demand ( PED: The reactivity of the measure demanded of a good or service to a alteration in its monetary value ) 6 above monetary value  is greater than 1. This means that an addition in monetary value above point i??Pi?? will ensue in a loss of gross. Likewise, the PED below monetary value  is less than one, intending a decrease in monetary value to this degree will ensue in a loss of gross once more. Due to these factors, it is logical that houses do non favor either move, so they are said to be stable at point P. This besides consequences in the end product being stable at point i??Qi?? as a alteration in fringy cost from MC1 to MC2 would still intend end product would remain at . This is due to houses in this market construction bring forthing at the net income maximising point, where MC=MR.7

Firms in this market construction may besides be conniving. This exists when the houses collude to bear down the same monetary values for their merchandises, in consequence playing as a monopoly. There are two types of collusion, formal and silent. Formal collusion issues when houses openly agree on the monetary values they will bear down. In the instance of supermarkets in the U.K, it is illegal for this to happen as it is deemed to be traveling against the involvement of the consumer due to it ensuing in less end product and higher monetary values. Tacit collusion, nevertheless, exists when houses charge the same monetary values without any formal collusion. The three supermarkets in inquiry may hold decided to bear down the same monetary values and non vie with each other, in order to increase gross.

Firms in an Oligopoly can see economic systems of graduated table. Economies of graduated table are any lessenings in the long-term norm costs that occur when a house changes all of its factors of production, in order to increase its graduated table of end product. There are a figure of different economic systems of graduated table that can profit a house as it increases its graduated table of end product. These can be:

  • Specialisation- Firms can be more efficient when they specialize in different countries of expertness
  • Division of labour- This is the interrupting down of a longer production procedure into many smaller activities, doing production more efficient by cut downing unit costs
  • Bulk buying- As houses increase in graduated table they are frequently able to negociate price reductions with their providers, as they are purchasing more wholly. This reduces the firmi??s cost of input, and therefore their unit costs of production
  • Financial economies- Larger houses are able to acquire loans at lower involvement rates, as they are seen as a lesser hazard to impart money to than smaller houses, by the bank

The premises of a monopoly are as followed:

  •  Merely one house bring forthing the merchandise at manus, so the house is the industry
  • High barriers to entry and/or issue
  •  Abnormal net incomes can be made in the long tally, due to barriers to entry

This market construction is improbable to be present in my research country as there are clearly more than house in the same industry.

Finally, the basic premises of perfect competition are:

  • The industry is made up by many houses, so entire end product can non be affected by one house
  • The houses all produce homogenous ( precisely identical ) merchandises
  •  No barriers to entry and/or issue
  • Manufacturers and consumers all have perfect cognition of the market

Again, this market construction is improbable to have in my survey, chiefly due to the fact that there is merchandise distinction, every bit good as apparent start up costs.


After reexamining and comparing the discussed market sum-up and theories, I have hypothesised that the market construction the supermarkets are in are oligopoly. I have reached this hypothesis for the chief grounds that:

  •  There are apparent barriers to entry such as strong stigmatization of merchandises and get down up costs
  •  There are merely three supermarkets in the local country, between them sharing about 64 % of the market share.

In add-on to these points, I believe silent collusion between the three supermarkets would greatly profit their competition with other smaller supermarkets in the country. It would besides avoid unneeded competition between each other, and possibly ensue in deriving more clients.

After speculating that the three supermarkets are in an oligopoly, and therefore capable of collusion, I will now be able to prove my research inquiry To what extent do the larger supermarkets in my local country collude with each other.


For me to prove my formulated research inquiry, I will make a methodological analysis. I will compare the monetary values of 15 different merchandises across the three supermarkets. I will look into the monetary values one time every hebdomad for three hebdomads, so I can acquire a average monetary value at the terminal, doing the consequence more dependable. I will do certain the monetary values of the same merchandises are taken in the same clip period, and where possible, use merchandises produced in the U.K.

This would avoid export costs affected and disconfirming consequences. If non plenty U.K based merchandises can be found, I will do certain that any exported merchandise used will hold been exported from all supermarkets. This will keep a grade of cogency in the research. I will besides avoid merchandises produced by the supermarkets themselves. This would be because the cost of production may be really different from one supermarket compared to another, therefore holding a big impact on the concluding pricing. I will compare independent trade names that characteristic across all three shops. Each supermarket in the country of West Charlton is located within one stat mi of each other.12

In footings of the informations aggregation, I will travel to each supermarket and comparison similar, or when possible, indistinguishable merchandises and their monetary values. I will observe down their current monetary value at which they sell at. Besides, I will travel to each supermarket near to their gap times on Saturday, as on this twenty-four hours the shops all open at the same clip. The ground for non traveling later on in the twenty-four hours is because of monetary value decrease on non-durable goods that are set to run out. If I include goods which monetary values have merely been reduced temporarily to acquire rid of enduring stock, it would non stand for the overall pricing of the good in regular state of affairss.

Last, I will compare the monetary values utilizing equal agencies of analysis ; therefore infering whether or non there is adequate similar pricing evident to propose collusion of some kind.


First, I will show my informations collected for the monetary values of 15 merchandises from all three supermarkets, across a span of three hebdomads, one time a hebdomad. Table 1 shows my findings of the monetary values. To analyze the spread of the information, I will work out the standard divergence for each merchandise, which will bespeak the spread of the information. A lower standard divergence would bespeak a set of closer, similar monetary values, likewise a higher standard divergence would connote less opportunity of collusion evident.

From the standard divergence, we can see they are all overall rather little, bespeaking the monetary values are all close to the average monetary value. This seems to bespeak some signifier of collusion happening between the supermarkets. However, there are some exclusions. For some goods the standard divergence is comparatively high to the other merchandises. Besides, in most of these goods, such as soft drinks, chip battalions, pizza, ice pick and cooked poulet, it is Asda who feature the lowest monetary value out of the three, while Tesco and Sainsburyi??s have similar monetary values to each other. This seems to demo that there is possible collusion between Tesco and Sainsburyi??s, while Asda undercuts their monetary values.

As similar pricing does non needfully intend formal collusion is taking topographic point, I will presume that the two supermarkets are tacitly conspiring, although this country may be needed to be researched into farther for a definite consequence.

Equally good as colluding, I have besides noticed that there is grounds of non-price competition between Tesco and Sainsburyi This included things such as the usage of advertisement, free bringing and other services situated in the shop themselves. This has lead to each supermarket deriving trade name trueness, and as a consequence, making a more inelastic demand curve for their merchandises. This is perchance another account of why these two supermarkets in peculiar where of a higher monetary value overall, compared to the other supermarket, Asda.

For the instance of Asda, they have engaged in monetary value war tactics, instead than organizing a collusion. In this instance, underselling challengers may be good to them by increasing their gross revenues gross. This can be represented by i??game theoryi?? .

The tabular array shows that if both supermarkets lower monetary value, they will do less gross than if they had colluded. However, it is still alluring to undersell the other shop as so that would take to greater gross. The highlighted box shows the possible state of affairs at the minute, with Asda underselling the other supermarkets therefore increasing gross. This pick doing state of affairs is known as the prisoneri.

Another account for the lower monetary value offered by Asda for goods could be down to take down unit costs caused by a greater storage capacity. The supermarketis cost of storage chiefly depends on the stuff used to construct them, which is the surface country of the edifice. The degree of end product for the supermarket will depend on its storage capacity, so its volume country. As the size of a supermarket additions, the volume to come up country ratio additions. Therefore, the cost per unit overall will be much less than a smaller supermarket, such as Sainsburyis and Tesco.

Last, from analyzing my collected information, I have reached the decisions:

  • Tesco and Sainsburyis collude by bear downing really similar monetary values, but still hold non-price competition between them.
  • Asda competes with a price-war maneuver, by underselling the other two supermarkets.


The purpose of my research was to look into the type of competition, if any, between the three major supermarkets in my country, West Charlton. The inquiry. To what extent do the larger supermarkets in my local country collude with each other? i?? prompted me to garner the pricing of 15 indistinguishable merchandises across the three shops. The monetary values were taken every Saturday forenoon one a hebdomad for three hebdomads.

I found that two of the three supermarkets had marks of collusion, while the 3rd supermarket engaged in a price-war by underselling the other two supermarkets.

First, Tesco and Sainsburyis have similar monetary values to each other, while holding higher monetary values than Asda. This was chiefly due to the two shops moving as a monopoly by conspiring and bear downing similar monetary values. This meant that each house could do unnatural net income, which they used to make greater trade name trueness, therefore doing the demand for their merchandises more inelastic.

Last, the concluding supermarket, Asda, engaged in price-war tactics. The chief ground for this was due to the thought of deriving more gross as indicated by ithe prisoneris dilemmai. In add-on to this, Asda had a greater storage capacity, intending an overall lower cost per unit. Therefore, after roll uping informations and analyzing them, it is found that there was grounds of collusion, but merely between two of the supermarkets, non all three studied.

There are, though, evident restrictions in my survey. First, my country of research was merely in one town. If there is found to be some signifier of collusion between supermarkets here, it doesni??t needfully intend it is happening all over the state with those same supermarkets. Besides, the clip span of my probe was three hebdomads. This may non hold been adequate clip to garner an appropriate sum of consequences to come to a dependable determination. This could be said the same for the sum of merchandises used in my probe.

merchandises may non hold been plenty to come to an appropriate consequence. Equally good as this, I could non do a judgement whether the collusion between Tesco and Sainsburyis was either tacit or collusion. This would hold to be investigated farther. All of these restrictions overlook the purpose of my survey and therefore should be inspected further.


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