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Posts Tagged ‘determinants of demand’

Ups and downs in the High Street

The typical UK high street is changing. Some analysts have been arguing for some time that high streets are dying, with shops unable to face the competition from large supermarkets and out-of-town malls. But it’s not all bad news for the high street: while some types of shop are disappearing, others are growing in number.

Part of the reason for this is the rise in online shopping; part is the longer-term effects of the recession. One consequence of this has been a shift in demand from large supermarkets (see the blog, Supermarket wars: a pricing race to the bottom). Many people are using local shops more, especially the deep discounters, but also the convenience stores of the big supermarket chains, such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local. Increasingly such stores are opening in shops and pubs that have closed down. As The Guardian article states:

The major supermarket chains are racing to open high street outlets as shoppers move away from the big weekly trek to out-of-town supermarkets to buying little, local and often.

Some types of shop are disappearing, such as video rental stores, photographic stores and travel agents. But other types of businesses are on the increase. In addition to convenience stores, these include cafés, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and takeaways; betting shops, gyms, hairdressers, phone shops and tattoo parlours. It seems that people are increasingly seeing their high streets as social places.

Then, reflecting the widening gap between rich and poor and the general desire of people to make their money go further, there has been a phenomenal rise in charity shops and discount stores, such as Poundland and Poundworld.

So what is the explanation? Part of it is a change in tastes and fashions, often reflecting changes in technology, such as the rise in the Internet, digital media, digital photography and smart phones. Part of it is a reflection of changes in incomes and income distribution. Part of it is a rise in highly competitive businesses, which challenge the previous incumbents.

But despite the health of some high streets, many others continue to struggle and the total number of high street stores across the UK is still declining.

What is clear is that the high street is likely to see many more changes. Some may die altogether, but others are likely to thrive if new businesses are sufficiently attracted to them or existing ones adapt to the changing market.

How the rise of tattoo parlours shows changing face of Britain’s high streets The Guardian, Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler (7/10/14)
The changing face of the British High Street: Tattoo parlours and convenience stores up, but video rental shops and travel agents down Mail Online, Dan Bloom (8/10/14)
High Street footfall struggles in August Fresh Business Thinking, Jonathan Davies (15/9/14)
Ghost town Britain: Internet shopping boom sees 16 high street stores close every day Mail Online, Sean Poulter (8/10/14)

Questions

  1. Which of the types of high street store are likely to have a high income elasticity of demand? How will this affect their future?
  2. What factors other than the types of shops and other businesses affect the viability of high streets?
  3. What advice would you give your local council if it was keen for high streets in its area to thrive?
  4. Why are many large superstores suffering a decline in sales? Are these causes likely to be temporary or long term?
  5. How are technological developments affecting high street sales?
  6. What significant changes in tastes/fashions are affecting the high street?
  7. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of high streets? Explain.
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Price changes for travellers in Bristol

There have been two significant changes in prices for travel in Bristol. At the end of April, the toll on Brunel’s iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge doubled from 50p to £1 for a single crossing by car. The bridge over the Avon Gorge links North Somerset with the Clifton area of Bristol and is a major access route to the north west of the city. Avoiding the bridge could add around 2 miles or 8 minutes to a journey from North Somerset to Clifton.

The justification given by the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust for the increase was that extra revenue was needed for maintenance and repair. As Trust Chairman Chris Booy said, ‘The higher toll will enable the Trust to continue its £9 million 10-year vital repair and maintenance programme which aims to secure the bridge’s long-term future as a key traffic route, one of Bristol’s major tourist destinations and the icon of the city’.

The other price change has been downwards. In November 2013, the First Group cut bus fares in Bristol and surrounding areas. Single fares for up to three miles were cut from £2.90 to £1.50; 30% discounts were introduced for those aged 16 to 21; half-price tickets were introduced for children from 5 to 15; and the two fare zones for £4 and £6 day tickets were substantially increased in size.

First hoped that the anticipated increase in passengers would lead to an increase in revenue. Evidence so far is that passenger numbers have increased, with journeys rising by some 15%. Part of this is due to other factors, such as extra bus services, new buses, free wifi and refurbished bus stops with larger shelters and seats. But the company attributes a 9% rise in passengers to the fare reductions. As far as revenue is concerned, indications from the company are that, after an initial fall, revenue has risen back to levels earned before the fare reduction.

What are the longer-term implications for revenue and profit of these two decisions? This depends on the price elasticity of demand and on changes in costs. Read the articles and then consider the implications by having a go at answering the questions.

Clifton Suspension Bridge toll to rise from 50p to £1 BBC News (9/4/14)
Regular Users of Clifton Suspension Bridge will be Protected from the Increase in the Bridge Toll Clifton Suspension Bridge (9/4/14)
Clifton Suspension Bridge Review Decision Letter Department of Transport (24/3/14)
Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust: bridge toll review inspector’s report Department of Transport (8/4/14)
Clifton Suspension Bridge Toll Increase – Account of the May 2013 Public Inquiry The National Alliance Against Tolls (NAAT)
First Bus Bristol fare cuts sees passenger growth BBC News (6/6/14)
First gamble over cheaper bus fares pays off as passengers increase in Bristol The Bristol Post (6/6/14)
Bristol bus fares deal to extend to South Gloucestershire and North Somerset The Bristol Post, Gavin Thompson (12/6/14)

Questions

  1. What assumptions is the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust making about the price elasticity of demand for bridge crossings?
  2. What determines the price elasticity for bridge crossings in general? Why is this likely to differ from one bridge to another?
  3. How is the long-term price elasticity of demand likely to differ from the short-term elasticity for Clifton Suspension Bridge crossings and what implications will this have for revenues, costs and profit?
  4. How is the price elasticity of demand for the bridge likely to vary from one user to another?
  5. How is offering substantial price reductions for multiple-crossing cards likely to affect revenue?
  6. What determines the price elasticity of demand for bus travel?
  7. What could a local council do to encourage people to use buses?
  8. How is the long-term price elasticity of demand for bus travel likely to differ from the short-term elasticity?
  9. In the long run, is First likely to see profits increase from its fare reduction policy? Explain what will determine this likelihood.
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Dreaming of a white Christmas

This autumn has been one of the mildest on record. Whilst this may be very nice for most of us, certain industries have been suffering. For example, gas and electricity consumption is down as people delay turning on their heating. One sector particularly badly hit has been clothing. Sales of winter clothes are substantially down and many retailers are longing for colder weather to boost their sales.

Of course, this is not helped by consumer incomes. With inflation at around 5% and average (pre-tax) weekly earnings currently rising by less than 2%, real incomes are falling. In fact over the year, even nominal disposable incomes are down 2.1%, given the rise in national insurance and income tax. And the problem of falling incomes is compounded by worries over the future state of the economy – whether it will go back into recession, with further falls in real income and rises in unemployment.

It’s no wonder that retailers are longing for some cold weather and for their customers to return from the seaside or their garden barbecues to the shopping malls. Look out for the ‘sales’ signs: they’re beginning to spring up as desperate retailers seek to attract wary customers.

Webcast
Retailers slash prices in Christmas build-up BBC News, Tim Muffett (25/11/11)

Articles
Winter woes: warm weather means shoppers aren’t buying as much Guardian, Zoe Wood (21/11/11)
Shoppers urged to be savvy as Christmas sales last for weeks The Telegraph, Victoria Ward (21/11/11)

Data
Earnings tables: Labour Market Statistics ONS (November 2011)
Personal Income and Wealth ONS
Price Indices and Inflation ONS
Personal Inflation Calculator (PIC) ONS

Questions

  1. Identify the determinants of demand for winter clothing.
  2. How responsive is demand likely to be to these determinants (a) over a period of a few weeks; (b) over a period of a few months?
  3. What factors should a retailer take into account when deciding whether to make pre-Christmas discounts?
  4. Assume that you are employed but are afraid of losing your job in a few months’ time. How would this affect your consumption of (a) seasonal goods; (b) durable goods; (c) day-to-day goods?
  5. What longer-term strategies could retailers adopt if they predict tough trading conditions over the next two or three years?
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Is the demand for petrol becoming more elastic?

The price of petrol at the pumps has risen substantially over the past few years. In the UK, according to the AA, the average price between January and June 2011 was 133.13p. In the same period in 2010 it was 116.68p; and in the same period in 2008 it was 109.00p.

Over the first six months of 2011, the amount of petrol sold fell by 5.2 per cent. This was on top of the decline in consumption over the previous four years. Between 2006 and 2010 consumption of petrol fell by 17.4%. The consumption of petrol and diesel are given in the following table.

UK consumption of petrol and diesel (tonnes millions)

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Petrol 18.14 17.59 16.68 15.76 14.99
Diesel 20.15 21.07 20.61 20.06 20.87
Total 38.29 38.66 37.29 35.82 35.86

Source: Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics (DUKES) (Department of Energy and Climate Change)

So what has caused this decline in petrol sales? Are there multiple factors at work here? Have a look at the articles and consider the explanations.

Articles
Cash-strapped drivers cut petrol use by 15 per cent Channel 4 News (5/10/11)
Sales of petrol slump as skint motorists cut costs Daily Record, Jamie Grierson (5/10/11)
Petrol Sales Plunge As Cash Squeeze Tightens Sky News (6/10/11)
Fuel cost rise ‘forcing change in driver habits’ TRL News, Mary Treen (6/10/11)

Data
Digest of United Kingdom energy statistics (DUKES) Department of Energy and Climate Change
Fuel price report (monthly) Automobile Association
Brent Crude spot prices Energy Information Association

Questions

  1. What factors have caused a fall in consumption of petrol?
  2. If you choose to spend a set amount on petrol, what is your price elasticity of demand?
  3. What determines the price elasticity of demand for petrol?
  4. Why has the consumption of diesel fallen less than that of petrol?
  5. Under what circumstances would an increase in tax on road fuel of 3p per litre (as planned for January 2012), result in a decrease in tax revenue? Why would the price elasticity of demand for road fuel have to be significantly greater than 1 (ignoring the minus sign) and not merely above 1 for this to be the case?
  6. Why is it likely that people’s price elasticity of demand for road fuel will become less elastic the more they have cut back on consumption?
  7. Why is the demand for petrol likely to be more elastic with respect to (a) price, and (b) income over the longer term?
  8. To what extent is the demand for road fuel a ‘derived demand’?
  9. To what extent is the fall in the consumption of petrol a reflection of a movement along the demand curve for petrol or a shift in the demand curve? Explain.
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Rational lemmings?

From October 2007 to March 2009, stock markets around the world fell massively. In the UK, the FTSE 100 fell from a peak of 6752 on 15 October 2007 to a trough of 3461 on 9 March 2009 (a fall of 49 per cent). By the end of August 2009 it had reached 4944 (a rise since March of 43 per cent). Does this mean that the March value represented an over-correction downwards? Did the subsequent rise represent an over-correction upwards? Are stock markets about to plummet? The following two articles reflect on the past and look into the future!

World Wide Stock Market Crash on Pause The Market Oracle (3/9/09)
Are shares about to fall off a cliff? BBC News (4/9/09)

Questions

  1. What is meant by the ‘efficient (capital) market hypothesis’?
  2. If stock markets are overvalued, does this mean that they are inefficient?
  3. Why might (a) stock markets plummet in the near future; (b) carry on rising? Why don’t the ‘experts’ know which will happen?
  4. Explain why markets may over-shoot their long-term equilibrium value?
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Cheddar – the king of cheeses at £2000 per tonne?

The combination of high global demand for milk and variable weather has led to a rapid rise in the price of milk. Cheese is made from milk (sorry to state the obvious!) and so cheese prices have risen to a new high in excess of £2000 per tonne and further price hikes are expected. One conclusion that could be drawn from this is that it is better to have a takeaway pizza now rather that in a month’s time, but what other effects is this price increase for milk likely to have?

Cheddar hits £2,000 a tonne as global milk demand soars Guardian (15/7/07)

Questions
1. Identify the key determinants of demand for cheese.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate and explain the changes that have taken place in the market for cheese.
3. Assess the extent to which the price increase for milk can be passed on to consumers of associated products like yoghurt and cheese.
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