Barriers to entry

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In economics and especially in the theory of competition, barriers to entry are obstacles in the path of a firm that make it difficult to enter a given market.[1]

The term refers to hindrances that an individual may face while trying to gain entrance into a profession or trade. It also, more commonly, refers to hindrances that a firm (or even a country) may face while trying to enter a market, industry or trade grouping. Barriers to entry restrict competition in a market.


[edit] Barriers to entry for firms into a market

Barriers to entry into markets for firms include;

  • Advertising - Incumbent firms can seek to make it difficult for new competitors by spending heavily on advertising that new firms would find more difficult to afford. This is known as the market power theory of advertising.[2] Here, established firms use of advertising creates a consumer perceived difference in its brand from other brands to a degree that consumers see its brand is a slightly different product.[2] Since the brand is seen as a slightly different product, products from existing or potential competitors cannot be perfectly substituted in place of the established firm's brand.[2] This makes it hard for new competitors to gain consumer acceptance.[2]
  • Cost advantages independent of scale - Proprietary technology, know-how, favorable access to raw materials, favorable geographic locations, learning curve cost advantages.
  • Customer loyalty - Large incumbent firms may have existing customers loyal to established products. The presence of established strong brands within a market can be a barrier to entry in this case.
  • Distributor agreements - Exclusive agreements with key distributors or retailers can make it difficult for other manufacturers to enter the industry.
  • Economy of scale - Large, experienced firms can generally produce goods at lower costs than small, inexperienced firms. Cost advantages can sometimes be quickly reversed by advances in technology. For example, the development of personal computers has allowed small companies to make use of database and communications technology which was once extremely expensive and only available to large corporations.
  • Globalization - Entry of global players into local market make entry of local players into the market difficult.
  • Government regulations - It may make entry more difficult or impossible. In the extreme case, a government may make competition illegal and establish a statutory monopoly. Requirements for licenses and permits may raise the investment needed to enter a market, creating an effective barrier to entry.
  • Inelastic demand - A strategy of selling at a lower price in order to penetrate markets. This is ineffective with price-insensitive consumers.
  • Intellectual property - Potential entrant requires access to equally efficient production technology as the combatant monopolist in order to freely enter a market. Patents give a firm the legal right to stop other firms producing a product for a given period of time, and so restrict entry into a market. Patents are intended to encourage invention and technological progress by offering this financial incentive. Similarly, trademarks and servicemarks may represent a kind of entry barrier for a particular product or service if the market is dominated by one or a few well-known names.
  • Investment - That is especially in industries with economies of scale and/or natural monopolies.
  • Network effect - When a good or service has a value that depends on the number of existing customers, then competing players may have difficulties in entering a market where an established company has already captured a significant user base.
  • Predatory pricing - The practice of a dominant firm selling at a loss to make competition more difficult for new firms that cannot suffer such losses, as a large dominant firm with large lines of credit or cash reserves can. It is illegal in most places; however, it is difficult to prove. See antitrust.
  • Restrictive practices, such as air transport agreements that make it difficult for new airlines to obtain landing slots at some airports.
  • Research and development - Some products, such as microprocessors, require a large upfront investment in technology which will deter potential entrants.
  • Supplier agreements - Exclusive agreements with key links in the supply chain can make it difficult for other manufacturers to enter an industry.
  • Sunk costs - Sunk costs cannot be recovered if a firm decides to leave a market. Sunk costs therefore increase the risk and deter entry.
  • Vertical integration - A firm's coverage of more than one level of production, while pursuing practices which favor its own operations at each level, is often cited as an entry barrier

[edit] Barriers to entry for individuals into the job market

Examples of barriers restricting individuals from entering a job market include educational, licensing, or quota limits on the number of people who can enter a certain profession such as that of lawyer, and educational, licensing, and experiential requirements for people who wish to be neurosurgeons.

Whilst both types of barriers to entry attempt to guarantee that people entering those fields are suitably qualified, the barriers to entry also reduce competition. This has the effect of facilitating premium pricing for the services of regulated professions. That is, if just anyone could enter these fields, the income of the incumbents would be expected to be lower.

[edit] Classification and examples

Michael Porter classifies the markets into four general cases:

  • Markets with high entry barriers have few players and thus high profit margins.
  • Markets with low entry barriers have lots of players and thus low profit margins.
  • Markets with high exit barriers are unstable and not self-regulated, so the profit margins fluctuate very much along time.
  • Markets with a low exit barrier are stable and self-regulated, so the profit margins do not much fluctuate along time.

The higher the barriers to entry and exit the more prone a market tend to be a natural monopoly. The reverse is also true. The lower the barriers the more likely to become a perfect competition.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Sullivan, arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 153. ISBN 0-13-063085-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d Moffatt, Mike. (2008) The Market Power Theory of Advertising Economics Glossary - Terms Beginning with M. Accessed June 19, 2008.
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