The Norwich Monopoly Monopoly

(by Paul Dobson in the spirit of summer)  This post is a reminder to all our readers to be vigilant in spotting monopoly practices on your own doorsteps. I report on my quick investigation into a potential abuse of local monopoly power. The case involves the independent Norwich toy retailer Langley’s, which has been trading since 1883 and has achieved a monopoly of specialist city centre toyshops. It is now openly boasting in its shop window that the board game Norwich Monopoly is exclusive to them, and charging £34.99, as the following photo shows:

Indeed, a search online shows that Ebay is selling the same item at the same price, …by a single seller ….Langley’s! The only apparent competition is from Amazon, where an upstart seller, “rockstrapuk”, is offering the whopping price of £74.99 + £3.99 delivery (with only 1 left in stock).

Is Langley’s abusing its monopoly position? Is steadfastly charging £34.99 an exploitative price? 

As a potential comparator good, the standard (London) Monopoly set currently costs £14.49 from Amazon. Amazon are bragging that this is a special offer price, discounted from the RRP of £21.99.  However, as the following pricing chart from CamelCamelCamel shows, Amazon’s price fluctuates regularly, and you could have snagged a better bargain at £9.99 last September – if you were smart enough to use a price checker service and be patient!

Is London Monopoly a good substitute for Norwich Monopoly? Probably not.  Is Norwich Monopoly in a monopoly market? Probably.  What would a SSNIP test reveal? Unfortunately, the lack of price fluctuation away from £34.99 and the risk of the cellophane fallacy means there is no definitive empirical evidence, but given the very limited and completely local demand for Norwich Monopoly, it could even be a natural monopoly.

One final possibility.  Is Langley’s a benevolent monopolist? Is it a wonderful independent shop fighting to survive in a world dominated by multinational retail giants, and giving us a unique and special board game at a reasonable and fair price that would not otherwise exist in the market? I would like to think so and if you agree then you might want to grab a set while stocks last…!!

One Response to The Norwich Monopoly Monopoly

  1. Bruce Lyons says:

    (by Bruce Lyons) Interesting post, Paul, but your focus on exploitative effects may have led you to overlook potential exclusionary effects. Looking closer at the images of the Norwich Monopoly board, it seems that there is also sponsorship associated with various squares, including by Langley’s for the iconic Royal Arcade. Was Amazon offered sponsorship of the Royal Arcade, or is Langley’s leveraging its bricks-and-mortar monopoly by excluding internet rivals from promoting their shopping sites?

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