Dual agency in retail chains

Steven C. Michael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Retail distribution is often organized into chain stores, where geographically dispersed units operate under a common trademark and operational routines. Franchising is an organizational form chosen by entrepreneurs to manage retail chains. Previous research has maintained that franchising is a solution to “the” agency problem. This article shows how franchising solves one agency problem, shirking, but creates another, free riding, giving rise to dual agency problems. We test which has a stronger effect on performance. Using stochastic frontier estimation, a technique from empirical economics, we show that marketing spending yields less sales for franchised chains relative to owned chains, suggesting that the loss associated with free riding dominates the gain from controlling shirking. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-140
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Marketing Channels
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Retail chains
  • efficiency
  • entrepreneurship
  • franchising
  • performance
  • stochastic frontier

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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