Swingline Stapler

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The Swingline Heavy Duty Stapler is an office supply, more so than a household item. A casual attempt to purchase a heavy duty stapler online (e.g., Amazon or eBay) makes it clear that there are numerous sellers of this product other than Swingline. Names like Stanley Bostitch, Sparco, Paper Pro, Hunt, Arrow, and Rapid, to name a few; and this list doesn’t include the models offered by the brick-and-mortar retailers like Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples. A more extensive search would only add to the list. Searching by brand within any of these online sites, however, pretty consistently reveals Swingline as the brand with the most choices; and more often than not, Stanley Bostitch falls into second on the list by product count. This anecdotal evidence hints that collectively, Swingline and Stanley Bostitch may very well have a strong share of a crowded market; oligopoly or monopolistic competition – it could go either way.

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In terms of establishing the price for its heavy duty stapler, it is important to Swingline to price it reasonably close to its many substitutes. The competitors for this product provide a “range” of prices that serve as a boundary for Swingline to use in determining the price for its product – a feature of monopolistic competition. Based on the brand listing information, I would expect that a major competitor, Bostitch, is the one that Swingline pays most attention to – Swingline’s pricing decisions are somewhat dependent on the expected response of Bostitch. This is a characteristic of an oligopoly.

In one sense, it can be argued that a heavy duty stapler is a standardized product – it serves one function. Due to this, there is not a significant amount of advertising done to try to differentiate the Swingline Heavy Duty Stapler from its competitors. Sellers in monopolistic competition and oligopoly both advertise to point out product differences, but standardized products exist primarily in oligopoly and...
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