Food retail profits, competition, and the Great Recession

Rebecca Cleary, Lauren Chenarides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We investigate the competitive effects of entry in the food retail sector in nonmetropolitan counties in the United States from 1998 to 2014. We pay particular attention to the period that covers the Great Recession, which disrupted market structure across a number of industries. Using a county-level panel dataset, we use a seminal entry model to infer the local competitive effects of entry in the food retail sector. We estimate entry thresholds over time, which we then use to describe the rate of decline in profit margins following subsequent entry via entry threshold ratios. We find that food retail firms required a smaller market size to break even during the Great Recession, perhaps pointing to higher profits, as consumers shifted purchases to food-at-home. This effect is short-lived for all but a single firm. The market threshold required to support a single food retail firm remains low throughout the post-recession recovery period. We also find that the second firm may not decrease profit margins, but that competition increases meaningfully with the third and fourth entrants. The increased competition during the Great Recession also appears to have persisted into the recovery period. [EconLit Citations: L18; Q18].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-578
Number of pages22
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • entry thresholds
  • food retail
  • Great Recession
  • grocery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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