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Are Operating Lease Costs Sticky for Retail Firms?

Advances in Management Accounting

ISBN: 978-1-83982-913-0, eISBN: 978-1-83982-912-3

Publication date: 28 September 2020


Purpose – This article examines the operating lease cost stickiness characteristics exhibited by retail firms.

Methodology/approach – Anderson, Banker, and Janakiraman (2003) laid important groundwork for the study of asymmetric cost behavior or cost stickiness. The authors found that a firm’s selling, general, and administrative costs (SG&A) costs increase more with a sales increase than those expenses decrease with an equivalent sales decline. Their findings provided avenues for many studies with differing focal variables; however, extant research has not explored the degree of cost stickiness associated with operating lease expenses. Recognizing the nature and magnitude of operating leases and the competitive and changing environment for retailers, this study adapts Anderson et al.’s (2003) model to provide insights into operating lease stickiness. The study uses archival financial data from 1997 through 2016 for specialty retail firms in testing the lease cost stickiness hypotheses.

Findings – The results of this study supported the hypotheses that operating lease expenses exhibit stickiness behavior and are relatively stickier than future lease commitments for retail firms.

Originality/value – By focusing on retail firms and related lease expenses, this study provides insights into the increasingly competitive retailer environment. This article’s findings will enhance understanding of how specialty retail firms’ managers react to reduced revenues. Finally, given recent authoritative pronouncements affecting accounting for leases and the significance of leasing transactions, research providing insights into cost behavior and managerial actions stands to make an important contribution to literature and practice.




I would like to thank Laurie Burney, Editor, who supervised the review of this article and the anonymous reviewers for valuable insights and suggestions that significantly improved the quality of this article. I also thank Abbie Daly, Jon Werner, and D’Arcy Becker for guidance and feedback that shaped this article from its inception.


Gray, D.L. (2020), "Are Operating Lease Costs Sticky for Retail Firms?", Burney, L.L. (Ed.) Advances in Management Accounting (Advances in Management Accounting, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 75-100.



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