Parallel imports of status goods: A strategic analysis of aesthetic design

Krista J. Li, Jianqiang Zhang, Richard Schaefer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parallel imports of gray products across markets are a worldwide concern for manufacturers. Extant research has focused on parallel imports of regular goods that do not provide status value. In this paper, we investigate parallel imports of conspicuously consumed status goods. We consider a manufacturer who directly sells a status product to consumers in two markets that value the product differently and a gray marketer that can import the product across markets. Our analysis shows that, though parallel imports decrease a manufacturer's profit from selling regular goods, it can increase their profit from selling status goods. Furthermore, the manufacturer decides whether to use the same or different aesthetic design for products across markets. With the same design, the gray and manufacturer-authorized products look identical, while different designs make them distinguishable, which affects their status value. We find that parallel imports benefit the manufacturer in a broader range of situations under the different-design strategy, whereas the same-design strategy increases the gray marketer's profit. When the two markets are sufficiently similar, the manufacturer uses the same design to induce parallel imports. When the two markets are sufficiently different, the manufacturer uses different designs to either deter parallel imports or improve their profit while competing with the gray marketer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2268-2288
Number of pages21
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • behavioral game theory
  • conspicuous consumption
  • gray market
  • parallel imports
  • status goods


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