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When to carry eccentric products? Optimal retail assortment under consumer returns
Alptekinoglu, Aydm; Grasas León, Alex
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
To understand whether retailers should consider consumer returns when merchandising, we study howthe optimal assortment of a price-taking retailer is influenced by its return policy. The retailer selects itsassortment from an exogenous set of horizontally differentiated products. Consumers make purchase andkeep/return decisions in nested multinomial logit fashion. Our main finding is that the optimal assortmenthas a counterintuitive structure for relatively strict return policies: It is optimal to offer a mix of the mostpopular and most eccentric products when the refund amount is sufficiently low, which can be viewed asa form of risk sharing between the retailer and consumers. In contrast, if the refund is sufficiently high, orwhen returns are disallowed, optimal assortment is composed of only the most popular products (a commonfinding in the literature). We provide preliminary empirical evidence for one of the key drivers of our results:more eccentric products have higher probability of return conditional on purchase. In light of our analyticalfindings and managerial insights, we conclude that retailers should take their return policies into accountwhen merchandising.
Operations Management
assortment planning
product variety management
product returns
nested logit
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