Monopolistically Competitive Firms

What do a restaurant on the street and a maker of packaged snacks have in common? 

Monopolistically Competitive Firms Monopolistically Competitive Firms

Create learning materials about Monopolistically Competitive Firms with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    One thing that they have in common is that they both are examples of monopolistically competitive firms. Actually, many firms that we interact with in our daily life operate in monopolistically competitive markets. Does this sound intriguing? Do you want to learn all about it now? Let's go at it!

    Characteristics of a Monopolistically Competitive Firm

    What are the characteristics of a monopolistically competitive firm? You may have guessed it - such a firm has the characteristics of both a monopolist and a firm in perfect competition.

    How is a monopolistically competitive firm like a monopolist? This comes from the fact that in monopolistic competition, each firm's product is a little different from the products of other firms. Since the products are not exactly the same, each firm has some power in setting the price for its own product. In more economics-sounding terms, each firm is not a price-taker.

    At the same time, a monopolistically competitive firm differs from a monopolist in two crucial ways. One, there are many sellers in a monopolistically competitive market. Second, there are no barriers to entry and exit in monopolistic competition, and firms can enter and exit the market as they like. These two aspects make it similar to a firm in perfect competition.

    To sum up, the characteristics of a monopolistically competitive firm are:

    1. It sells a differentiated product from similar products of other firms, and it is not a price-taker;

    2. there are many sellers offering similar products in the market;

    3. it faces no barriers to entry and exit.

    Need a refresher on these other two market structures that we mention? Here they are:

    - Monopoly

    - Perfect Competition

    Monopolistically Competitive Firms Examples

    There are many examples of monopolistically competitive firms. Actually, most of the markets that we face in real life are monopolistically competitive markets. There are many sellers offering differentiated products, and they are free to enter or exit the market.

    Restaurants are one example of monopolistically competitive firms. Let's compare restaurants to the three characteristics of monopolistic competition to see that this is the case.

    • There are many sellers.
    • There are no barriers to entry and exit.
    • Each firm sells differentiated products.
    The first two are easy to see. There are many restaurants on the street to choose from if you live in a decently populated area. People can choose to open a new restaurant if they would like to, and the existing restaurants can decide to go out of business if it no longer makes sense to them. What about differentiated products? Yes, every restaurant has different dishes. Even if they are of the same cuisine, the dishes are still not exactly the same and taste a little different. And it's not just the dishes, the restaurants themselves are different. The decor inside is different so the customers can feel a little differently when they sit and have their meals in a new restaurant. This is crucial because it allows a fancier restaurant to charge a higher price for a similar dish than a less fancy restaurant.

    Another example of monopolistically competitive firms is the makers of packaged snack items that we find in every supermarket.

    Let's take one small subset of packaged snacks -- sandwich cookies. These are the types of cookies that look like Oreos. But there are many sellers in the market of sandwich cookies other than Oreo. There is Hydrox, and then there are many store-brand substitutes. These firms are certainly free to exit the market, and new firms can come in and start making their versions of sandwich cookies. These cookies look quite similar, but the brand names claim that they are better and they convince the consumers of that. That's why they can charge a higher price than the store-brand cookies.

    Want to learn more about one way that firms can differentiate their products? Check out our explanation: Advertising.

    The Demand Curve Faced by a Monopolistically Competitive Firm

    What is the demand curve faced by a monopolistically competitive firm like?

    Because firms in a monopolistically competitive market sell differentiated products, each firm has some market power unlike in the case of perfect competition. Therefore, a monopolistically competitive firm faces a downward-sloping demand curve. This is also the case in a monopoly. In contrast, firms in a perfectly competitive market face a flat demand curve as they are price-takers.

    In a monopolistically competitive market, firms can freely enter and exit the market. When a new firm enters the market, some customers will decide to switch to the new firm. This reduces the market size for the existing firms, shifting the demand curves for their products to the left. Similarly, when a firm decides to exit the market, its customers will switch to the remaining firms. This expands the market size for them, shifting their demand curves to the right.

    A Monopolistically Competitive Firm's Marginal Revenue Curve

    What about a monopolistically competitive firm's marginal revenue curve then?

    You might have guessed it. It's just like in a monopoly, the firm faces a marginal revenue curve that is below the demand curve, shown in Figure 1 below. The logic is the same. The firm has market power over its product, and it faces a downward-sloping demand curve. In order to sell more units, it has to lower the price of all units. The firm will have to lose some revenue on the units that it was already able to sell previously at a higher price. This is why the marginal revenue of selling one more unit of the product is lower than the price that it charges.

    Monopolistically competitive firms Demand and marginal revenue curves StudySmarterFig. 1 - A monopolistically competitive firm's demand and marginal revenue curves

    So how does a monopolistically competitive firm maximize profit? What quantity will the firm produce and what price will it charge? This is also like the case with monopoly. The firm will produce until the point where marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost, QMC. It then charges the corresponding price at this quantity, PMC, by tracing to the demand curve. How much profit (or loss) the firm makes in the short run depends on where the average total costs (ATC) curve lies. In Figure 1, the firm is making a good profit because the ATC curve is quite a bit lower than the demand curve at the profit-maximizing quantity QMC. The red-shaded area is the firm's profit in the short run.

    We mention monopoly a couple of times here. Do you need a quick refresher? Check out our explanation:

    - Monopoly

    - Monopoly Power

    Monopolistically Competitive Firm in Long-run Equilibrium

    Will a monopolistically competitive firm be able to make any profit in the long-run equilibrium?

    To answer this question, let's first consider what happens in the short run. Whether firms in the monopolistically competitive market can actually make a profit in the short run will affect the entry and exit decisions of the firms.

    If the average total costs (ATC) curve is below the demand curve, the firm receives more revenue than cost, and it is turning a profit. Other firms see that there is profit to make and will decide to enter the market. New firms' entry into the market shrinks the market size for the existing firm because some of its customers will turn to the new firms. This shifts the demand curve to the left. New firms will continue to enter the market until the demand curve just touches the ATC curve; in other words, the demand curve is tangent to the ATC curve.

    A similar process will happen if the ATC curve is above the demand curve initially. When this is the case, the firm is making a loss. Some firms will decide to exit the market, shifting the demand curve to the right for the remaining firms. Firms will continue to exit the market until the demand curve is tangent to the ATC curve.

    When we have the demand curve being tangent to the ATC curve, no firms will have the incentive to enter or leave the market. Therefore, we have the long-run equilibrium for the monopolistically competitive market. This is shown in Figure 2 below.

    Monopolistically competitive firms Long-run equilibrium StudySmarterFig. 2 - Long-run equilibrium for a monopolistically competitive firm

    We can see that a monopolistically competitive firm will make zero profit in the long run, just like a perfectly competitive firm would. But there are still some important differences between them. A monopolistically competitive firm charges a price above its marginal cost while a perfectly competitive firm charges a price equal to the marginal cost. The difference between the price and the marginal cost of producing the product is the markup.

    Additionally, we can see from the Figure that, the monopolistically competitive firm does not produce at the point that minimizes its average total costs, called the efficient scale. Because the firm produces at a quantity that is below the efficient scale, we say that the monopolistically competitive firm has excess capacity.

    Monopolistically Competitive Firms - Key takeaways

    • The characteristics of a monopolistically competitive firm are:
      • it sells a differentiated product from similar products of other firms, and it is not a price-taker;
      • there are many sellers offering similar products in the market;
      • the firm faces no barriers to entry and exit.
    • A monopolistically competitive firm faces a downward-sloping demand curve and a marginal revenue curve that is below the demand curve.
    • In the long run, a monopolistically competitive firm makes zero profit as firms enter and exit the market.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Monopolistically Competitive Firms

    What are the characteristics of a monopolistically competitive market? 

    1. It sells a differentiated product from similar products of other firms, and it is not a price-taker;

    2. there are many sellers offering similar products in the market;

    3. it faces no barriers to entry and exit.

    What is monopolistic competition in economics? 

    Monopolistic competition is when there are many sellers offering differentiated products.

    What happens to a monopolistically competitive firm? 

    A monopolistically competitive firm might turn a profit or a loss in the short run. It will make zero profit in the long run as firms enter or exit the market.

    What are the benefits of monopolistic competition? 

    Monopolistic competition gives the firm some market power. This allows the firm to charge a price above its marginal cost.

    What is the best example of monopolistic competition? 

    There are many. One example is restaurants. There are countless restaurants to choose from, and they offer differentiated dishes. There are no barriers to entry and exit from the market.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of the following are characteristics of a monopolistically competitive firm?

    Which of the following are examples of a monopolistically competitive firm?

    A monopolistically competitive firm faces a(n) _______ demand curve.

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Monopolistically Competitive Firms Teachers

    • 9 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App