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We are delighted to host on our blog this article from Alex Macarthur an upper-sixth student at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys. Alex enjoys is especially interested in ‘Behavioural Economics’. In this feature he looks at pricing anchoring in markets. This article was originally published in the student magazine www.lucigmag.co.ukread more...»
Where would you expect a Starbucks latte to be cheaper - in a coffee store in downtown New York or in a Starbucks store in China? Keep in mind that per capita incomes in China are around one tenth of those in the United States.
The answer may come as something of a surprise!
In a report on coffee prices that has caused something of a stir across social media platforms, the state-owned broadcaster CCTV reported that a medium-sized latte cost Rmb27 ($4.43) in China compared with Rmb19.98 in Chicago, Rmb14.6 in Mumbai and Rmb24.25 in London.
Starbucks responded that its pricing strategy was based on local market costs, including infrastructure investment, real estate and labour costs. It also added that its Asia-Pacific profit margin was for 14 countries, not just China. They added that each Starbucks market is unique and has different operating costs and that it would be inaccurate to draw conclusions about one market based on the prices in a different market.
The prices of imported goods in China are often raised because of the effects of import taxes (tariffs) - in this case the customs duty on roasted coffee beans is 15%. Add to that a sales tax of 17%.read more...»
The market for retail gas supplies is mired in controversy and threats of direct government intervention to freeze prices should a new Labour government be elected in 2015. This week we have seen a classic example of the type of price leadership we expect to see in an oligopoly.
Ed Milliband’s conference speech last week gave us one of those all-too-rare moments where we can illustrate a real (or potential) government policy with a standard economic diagram.
Mr Milliband clearly stated that, should the Labour Party win the next General Election (in 2015) they will cap the price of domestic fuel. His policy is aimed at restricting how much people would have to spend on energy so as to improve their general purchasing power as well as reducing business costs. The big losers would be the energy companies themselves who do not seem particularly keen on the policy. Mr Milliband argued that their profits were sufficiently high and, besides, they have been using the lack of competition within the market place to bolster their coffers.
Assuming that teachers have already covered the basics in Demand and Supply diagrams, this link will take you to a short (up to 10 minute) activity asking students to draw the ‘Price-Cap’ diagram and consider the economic arguments for and against the policy proposal.
Some useful data here on the depth of cigarette taxes by countryread more...»
This morning's news stories include an implied threat to close MOSI (The Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester, in order to keep the Science Museum in London open.
Should museums charge admissions fees or not? Is a museum a merit good or not? If entry is free, are you tempted to avoid placing money in the transparent collection box as you go in? If is free, how should the museum fund its activities - encouraging donations, marketing guidebooks, souvenirs, themed gifts, or reliance on government grants? This begs questions about how a government allocates scarce funds?
Florence's Uffizi Gallery does not charge children or pensioners, amongst others. Can you identify which museums have more price inelastic demand, and face a smaller drop in visitor numbers should charging be reintroduced? Why would visitors pay €18 to climb Pisa's famous leaning tower?
mind that AQA had set a question on this topic in 2004. "Using the data and your economic knowledge, assess the case for and against providing free entry to museums."
MOSI is supposed to be one of Manchester's biggest visitor attractions, but would there be a negative multiplier effect if it closed? Should the cultural heritage be preserved? This clip from Yes Minister helps focus a debate.
Here are some streamed revision presentations for unit 1 microeconomicsread more...»
More questions on income and cross elasticity of demand here.
The basics of price elasticity of demand are covered in this revision quiz.
Bill Morrison examines whether proposals for a minimum price for alcohol will work in the UK. The UK Government is looking to introduce a minimum price per unit for alcoholic drinks. The price muted is 45p which would make a relatively strong can of lager approximately £0.95. Currently a local supermarket is retailing a brand of lager containing 2.1 units per can at the equivalent of £0.75. Under the new legislation, should it come into force, the equivalent box of ten cans would have to be sold at a minimum of £9.46. More of which later. However, why do we need to introduce a minimum price for alcohol?read more...»
Tragedy struck at a mid-week game played during the holiday season in Football League Division Two. The pies ran out in the home supporters’ bar. The incident may seem trivial to those not involved. Yet it illustrates some important themes in economics, which have even gained their inventors the Nobel Prize.read more...»
An updated glossary of key terms for the Unit 1 Economics paperread more...»
An A-Z glossary for the Unit 1 Micro courseread more...»
Angus Thirwell the co-founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat is immensely grateful to Joanne Harris and Juliet Binoche. respectively the author and star of the hit film Hotel Chocolat. The movie educated a generation of aspirational chocolate lovers in how to pronounce Hotel Chocolat and has helped millions of consumers in Britain and around the world advocate the hit chocolate retail brand without committing a pronunication faux-pas! I wonder how many satisfied customers realise that Hotel Chocolat does not exist? Perhaps they have typed the name into Trip Advisor hoping for a review of a retreat flowing with rather wonderful chocolate made from a St Lucian plantation?read more...»
Here is the link to the article
This Financial Times new video looks at the rapid growth of outlet shopping where excess inventory (stocks) of designer brands are sold at heavily discounted prices. A useful video to watch when thinking about income elasticity of demand. The video looks at how premium brand retailers manage this section of the market.read more...»
A warm hat tip to Ed Marsh, Head of Economics at Glyn School for spotting this superb example of a sports club using dynamic pricing technology to determine the prices of tickets for their home games.
The BBC news site reports that Derby County are introducing "demand-based" ticketing for the coming season with prices fluctuating according to the opposition, the team's form, kick-off times and even the weather. The system is known as Sports and Entertainment Analytical Ticketing System (SEATS)
Buy in advance and fans will get cheaper prices - but what if a sizeable group decides to start a game of chicken with the club and hold back from buying? As match day gets closer, ticket prices should move higher, but if demand for a game is well below the stadium's capacity will prices drop back?
Hardened cynics might also point out that the Derby County ground has a fundamental design flaw .... the seats face the pitch!
A slide share revision presentation on elasticity of demandread more...»
A revision blog on income elasticity of demandread more...»
Here is a ten question quiz on elasticity of demand to give you a little extra variety in your revision!read more...»
Here is a planned answer to an exam question
“Assess whether the demand for rice is likely to be price elastic or price inelastic”read more...»
As an Apple aficionado, I regularly visit the macrumors.com site to keep up to date with the latest news about my favourite computer company, so it was interesting to see this article today looking at the effect on revenue for app producers who put their apps ‘on sale’read more...»
Nearly every country has a tax on petrol, although the amount varies widely. And given that the landed price of petrol is quite similar (see the graph below), it can be seen what effect the tax has on quantity demanded. The results are very much in line what economic theory would predict and there are also clear implications for countries that want to reduce petrol consumption.read more...»
This week, the price of orange juice concentrate on the global market hit a record high, reaching $2.12 (£1.38) a pound (0.45kg).read more...»
The Government has announced today a scheme to help first time buyers on to the property ladder. It has been reported widely in the press with mixed reactions. The BBC article outlines the main proposals (here is the link to The Daily Telegraph). It is interesting from a political point of view that this government should chose to intervene in this market, though perhaps we should not be too surprised as it was the Conservatives that brought in the ‘Right to Buy’ legislation in 1980.read more...»
Once students have understood the theory of the different elasticities, an important progression is being able to apply it to different markets.
One exercise that I use with my iGCSE and AS groups is as follows:
Have you got £40,000 or £50,000 to spare on a Christmas present? A hat tip to Freddie Drapkin for spotting these examples of products perfectly suited to status races and ostentatious consumption!
Glass pool table (£39,000)
And for the lazy tea drinkers among you - try this!
When teaching price elasticity of demand, here is a good article on the BBC today on the effect of higher university fees on demand for higher education. Good for discussion of how PED will differ with respect to different types of consumer and for different types of universities, as well as the cross price elasticity of demand with foreign universities.read more...»
Here is a nice example to illustrate the varying effects of the recession on the economy… A growing influx of high-spending foreign tourists powered Harrods through the £1bn sales barrier for the first time… whilst Poundland has also has reported a 26 per cent boost in revenues to £642m. A good example to use in discussion of goods and services that have different income elasticities of demand. Read the article at the FT here.
This revision note covers supply and demand factors that help to determine the world and domestic retail price of bananas. Despite rising world prices, the UK retail price of bananas has actually fallen in recent years. Can students explain why? What effect does intense competition within the UK food retail sector have on the prices we pay?read more...»
This has to be the most widely used example in classrooms up and down the country when discussing price elasticity of demand.
How about this little twist on it?read more...»
This is a superb BBC news report on the rising demand for and prices of potash.
Potash is shorthand for potassium carbonate - a potassium compound often used in agriculture and industry. Potash is the third major plant and crop nutrient after nitrogen and phosphate and the vast majority of the annual global supply is used as a soil fertilizer. It is a product with virtually no close substitute making the demand insensitive to the ruling market price - the price elasticity of demand for potash is very low and high prices make the product hugely profitable to supplyread more...»
Here’s a great example of the price mechanism in action - on a topic that should be highly relevant to many A Level Economists. As our accompanying chart shows, the cost of buying car insurance(as measured by the retail price index) has risen by a staggering 40% in the last year, with even bigger increases being registered for young drivers wishing to insure their own car or be added to their parent’s policy.
This BBC video shows one such customer whose pride and joy (a Ford Fiesta) cost him just £700, but whose annual insurance premium is over £2,000. Suppliers are raising their prices and (in some cases) withdrawing from the market altogether for this “risky” group of customers. A great way for a lesson to combine supply and demand curves with some citizenship advice too
One aspect of the rising cost of car insurance is an increase in the number of uninsured drivers on the roads - higher premiums have made insurance unaffordable for many and some choose to take the risk of failing to insure their car. But accidents involving uninsured drivers has the follow-on effect of increasing the premiums that law-abiding motorists end up paying - a negative externality.
The latest review of university funding has recommended that the cap on tuition fees be lifted giving universities more freedom to raise annual tuition costs well above the current level of £3,290 a year.
To what extent will a rise in the private cost of studying for a degree lead to a substantial fall in market demand from UK-based students? This BBC news feature makes for interesting reading and links in well to the concept of price elasticity of demand - the responsiveness of demand to a change in the market price. There is little doubt that the cost of taking a university education will rise substantially in the years ahead and this raises hugely important questions about the impact on demand and the effect on students from poorer backgrounds who might be priced out of a degree.
It seems that Business Secretary Vince Cable has already come out against introducing a Graduate Tax - one of the main alternatives to raising tuition fees. The issue is debated here in this discussion on the Radio 4 Today programme. There is more background on the university funding issue here.
Further articles on the economics of a graduate tax can be found here.
University course fee increases ‘could deter students’ (BBC news)
My better half and I recently popped along to the cinema to see ‘Made in Dagenham’.
The film is set in the late 1960s and depicts the true story of the 200 female machinists and their fight for fair pay at the Ford plant in Dagenham, Essex in the late 1960s. The film is an archetypal feel-good piece of social history, and packed with interesting Economics. Teaching to the syllabus alas does not always afford us the luxury of discussing relatively recent Economic history – this is a real shame. An appreciation of these events I feel can really help to bring several topics alive. Encourage your students to go and see the film – it’s all there:
1/ Monopsony – In the late 1960s Ford employed 55,000 people in Dagenham – 54,800 of them were men
2/ Trade Unions and the Supply Side – wage negotiation and industrial action
3/ Legislation – The dispute was a catalyst for what became the 1970 Equal Pay Act: something that still provokes controversy; today – 40 years later – pay disparity still remains an issue (always extra fun to discuss this in an all boys’ school!)
Cinemas are also of course excellent places in and of themselves as regards turning the restless mind to Economics issues. This particular establishment provides sofas for customers to lounge upon, and one is able to order items from the menu via a handy waiter/waitress service. This of course has several ramifications re the business model the firm operates. I marvelled at the application of cross price elasticity as I took in the outrageous prices on the menu! My thoughts turned to price discrimination as I pondered the ticket price! I glanced round approvingly at the civilised audience, gathered together in part via the power of the price mechanism!
I can’t finish without mentioning the fact that the soundtrack during an advert for a well known brand of Corn Flakes was provided by one of my favourite bands … Primal Scream, a Scottish alternative rock group. I almost choked on my Sauvignon Blanc as I vacillated between thoughts of ‘sell out!’ and the use of multiple revenue streams to maximise the value of a well-known product. I have to tell you – the irrationality of the fan won the day …. Oh Bobby, how could you?
Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s Technology Correspondent, does a pretty spectacular demolition job on an attempt by clothing retailer Next to break into the fast-growing market for tablet devices. A very funny piece to camera that manages to highlight when cheap truly means awful! A lovely clip to show when discussing the nature of inferior products in a given market space.
Here is a super blog by Jason Welker on aspects of price elasticity of demand - offering some great examples of where demand is either likely to be highly elastic to where consumers are almost immune to changes in the market price.
For another take on price elasticity of demand, a recent Freakonomics blog post looks at pricing for new album releases. A Record Label That Believes in You
With the Bank of England now considering further QE and also urging us all to empty our bank accounts and get out there and spend, spend, spend it got me thinking about the enabling effect of technology, in particular in the area of portable electronic devices. I did toy recently with buying an iPhone, but was struggling to justify the cost. I did however recently succumb to temptation and treated myself to a new 32G Apple Ipod Touch.read more...»
Here is a good 5-minute discussion here of the 45p a unit minimum alcohol price proposed in Scotland.
It offers a good application of some of the main AS micro topics - since it is targeting consumers for whom alcohol is a problem, the highly price inelastic demand for alcohol will probably mean the 45p minimum price is not a huge disincentive.
Paradoxically, since minimum prices only work if the free market equilibrium price is currenly below the minimum price, what it may actually cause is a shift towards higher strength alcohols that are already above the 45p a unit! There’s the law of unintended consequences for you!
The market for a particularly lucrative gray dust has been thrust into the spotlight this summer with news of a $38.5bn (£25bn) hostile takeover bid from Australian mining giant BHP Billiton for Potash Corp of Saskatchewan in Canada a business coined by some as the “Saudi Arabia of Potash”!read more...»
A lesson worksheet / test on cross price elasticity of demand is available here. The test has a mixture of short answer questions and multiple choice questions on cross price elasticity of demand. An answer key document is also available
This lesson worksheet / quiz provides multiple choice, short answer and fill in the blank questions on income elasticity of demand
The quiz can be downloaded here (in pdf format) along with a quiz with answers included
Quiz with answers
A good article in the Telegraph on supply and demand factors affecting the price of nuts.
The Times features a very interesting article about the reaction or the percieved reaction of travel companies offering substitute forms of travel in the UK. Is the customer being ripped off? Is this price discrimination at work in the market?
Travel companies have denied profiteering from the volcanic dust cloud as stranded holidaymakers face paying premium fares to get home after the Easter break.
Channel ferry firms and Eurostar trains were fully booked this weekend as the Eyjafjallajökull volcano continued to pump ash into the atmosphere and aircraft were grounded across Northern Europe.read more...»
The Guardian today carries a story about alleged price gouging by the supermarkets. Tesco and Asda refute the charge but they are said to have lifted the prices of a number of necessary purchases for many household goods in the lead up to Christmas.
“Both supermarkets, according to Bridgeman, would be able to use their sales data or information from loyalty cards to identify those purchases customers feel they have to make at Christmas and then target these categories for some steep rises “to extract maximum profit” from shoppers who have neither the time nor capacity to go elsewhere. So household cleaning goods, shaving products, toiletries, lightbulbs, batteries, pickles, sauces, herbs and spices typically consumed at Christmas, favourite seasonal drinks, hangover and indigestion pills, and must-have family presents were all categories seeing dramatic hikes on some lines”
Price gouging involves charging more for consumers whose demand is price insensitive, in other words the price elasticity of demand is low. This would allow the retailers to achieve a higher profit margin on their sales as they extract consumer surplus and turn it into extra producer surplus. The accusation is a strong one more so because many thousands of families on lower incomes may have suffered price hikes at a time when budgets are already under enormous pressure from the effects of the recession and rising utility and energy bills.
This BBC news article highlights some of the key economic challenges facing the global airline industry as we move further in 2010. IATA reports that world airline passenger traffic dropped by 3.5% from a year earlier, while freight traffic fell 10.1% as the downturn hit demand. Losses have mounted and the industry continues to have to weather many uncertainties such as the likely strength of a rebound in global tourism, freight and business travel and the volatility of aviation fuel costs. This in the week when Japanese Airlines filed for bankruptcy. IATA has forecast that airlines will lose $5.6 billion (£3.5 billion) on a net basis this year after losing $11 billion in 2009.
The BBC reports that PostComm - the postal service industry regulator has given initial backing for Royal Mail to increase the cost of a standard first-class stamp by three pence. This would take the price up to 42p. At the same time, standard second-class stamps may rise by 2p to 32p. How will consumers respond to the price change? For many the price hike will have little effect - most of the stamps that I buy can be reclaimed as stationery expenses. But many smaller businesses spend heavily on mailshots as a part of their marketing. A rise in mail costs may cause them to consider making more effective use of their customer databases so that - for example - a 3000 mail shot volume is better targeted than before. Do you think that the price elasticity of demand for stamps is price inelastic - at least in the short term?
The Royal Mail is subject to a price cap agreed with their industry regulator. Since the Royal Mail?s current price control was agreed in 2006, the Royal Mail has lost 9% of its mail volumes over the three year period to April 2009, largely through shrinkage of the total market including 20% of stamped mail. The Royal Mail has also had to face up to increased competition as the postal market has been fully opened up to competition.
Shrinking mail volumes has the effect of reducing capacity utilisation of their collection, sorting and delivery capacity and leads to a rise in the unit costs of the business. The Royal Mail is required by law to operate a universal service across the UK; it is a business that requires substantial economies of scale to remain profitable.
Drive a new car off the forecourt and you it immediately loses a sizeable slice of its value. And, under normal market conditions, second-hand cars lose value by about 15 per cent a year, but this year they are increasing in value – by an average of £600 so far this year – mainly due to a shortage of supply caused by the government’s scrappage scheme.read more...»
We are told that this new product has been forty-five years in the making. McLaren has unveiled its new super sports car, designed using Formula 1 technology.
This BBC video offers a sneak preview of the new car and it might be a good one to use when discussing needs and wants! Or the income elasticity of demand for luxury products and the price premium for motorists already wetting themselves in anticipation of getting behind the wheel! Given the relative absence of economies of scale in production, you might get students to estimate the likely introductory price in the market?
At a pinch I would price it between £175,000 and £200,000 but then again I am happy to potter around in a nine year old Citroen that is just a year from the knackers yard.
The price of tea on the global market has surged to a fifteen year high. Supply and demand factors are both at work as this short streamed presentation shows
There are over 1,500 different types of tea so discussing what is happening to the ‘world price’ has its limitations! But this is an interesting market to explore for AS students covering as it does
*Market demand and supply factors
*The impact of price volatility
*Do tea producers actually gain from rising market prices
*Price and income elasticity of demand for tea
*Fair Trade and tea pricing policies
*The impact of changing tea prices on demand for and supply of related products
*The significance of world tea prices for macroeconomic performance of major tea exporting nations
Once students have the core supply and demand analysis, this is a topic that we can return to later on in the course and also in revision