Edgeworth Price Cycle Explained | ORBITAL AFFAIRS

The Edgeworth Price Cycle: Understanding the Pattern of Price Adjustments in Competitive Markets

In the world of business, competition is a driving force that shapes market dynamics. One fascinating phenomenon that arises from this competition is the Edgeworth Price Cycle. This pattern of price adjustments occurs when businesses offering commodified products engage in fierce competition to gain market share. Understanding this cycle can provide valuable insights into the behavior of businesses and the dynamics of competitive markets.

What is the Edgeworth Price Cycle?

The Edgeworth Price Cycle is named after Francis Ysidro Edgeworth, an economist who first described this pattern of price adjustments in the late 19th century. It is observed in markets where businesses offer similar or identical products, such as gasoline, groceries, or airline tickets. These products are often referred to as commodified products because they lack differentiation, making price the primary factor influencing consumer choice.

The cycle begins with a period of intense competition among businesses. Each player aims to attract customers by offering lower prices than their competitors. As a result, prices steadily decline until they reach a point where businesses can no longer sustain profitability. This marks the bottom of the cycle.

After reaching the bottom, businesses realize that they cannot continue operating at such low prices without incurring losses. They start to gradually increase their prices to restore profitability. However, as each business independently adjusts its prices, a new phase of competition emerges.

The second phase of the cycle is characterized by businesses trying to outdo each other by offering slightly lower prices than their competitors. This leads to a downward spiral of price reductions until the cycle reaches its bottom once again. The cycle then repeats itself, creating a pattern of price adjustments over time.

Factors Influencing the Edgeworth Price Cycle

Several factors contribute to the occurrence and duration of the Edgeworth Price Cycle. One key factor is the level of competition in the market. When there are numerous businesses offering similar products, the competition intensifies, leading to more frequent and pronounced price adjustments.

Additionally, the elasticity of demand plays a crucial role. If consumers are highly sensitive to price changes, businesses must be more cautious when adjusting their prices. A small increase in price may result in a significant loss of customers, forcing businesses to quickly reverse their price adjustments.

Furthermore, external factors such as changes in production costs, supply chain disruptions, or government regulations can also impact the Edgeworth Price Cycle. These factors can influence the profitability of businesses and their ability to sustain price reductions or increases.

Implications for Businesses and Consumers

Understanding the Edgeworth Price Cycle is essential for both businesses and consumers. For businesses, it provides insights into market dynamics and the behavior of competitors. By analyzing the cycle, businesses can anticipate price movements and adjust their strategies accordingly. They can also identify opportunities to differentiate their products or find new ways to reduce costs without solely relying on price adjustments.

For consumers, the Edgeworth Price Cycle offers the potential for cost savings. By monitoring the cycle, consumers can time their purchases to take advantage of lower prices during the bottom phase. However, it is important to note that this cycle may not be as pronounced in all markets or for all products. Factors such as market concentration, product differentiation, and consumer behavior can influence the intensity and duration of the cycle.


The Edgeworth Price Cycle is a fascinating pattern of price adjustments that emerges from competition among businesses offering commodified products. It highlights the dynamic nature of competitive markets and the constant struggle for businesses to gain market share. Understanding this cycle can provide valuable insights for businesses and consumers alike, enabling them to make informed decisions and navigate the ever-changing landscape of pricing dynamics.

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