Substitute Goods

Definition of substitute goods – Substitute goods are two alternative goods that could be used for the same purpose.

Two phones – one Android (HTC) one iPhone (Apple). In one sense they are close substitutes but to some consumers entirely different.
  • Substitutes present the consumer with alternative choices.
  • If the price of one good increases, then demand for the substitute is likely to rise.
  • Therefore, substitutes have a positive cross elasticity of demand.

Graph of two substitute goods

2-substitutes-supply-demand In the diagram on the left, there is a fall in the price of Android Phones causing consumers to demand more. (movement along the demand curve).

  • As a result, there is a fall in demand for the substitute (Apple iPhone) leading to less demand.

Cross elasticity of demand

Cross elasticity of demand (XED) measures the responsiveness of the demand for one good in relation to a change in the price of another.


For example, if the price of Android phones falls 10%, demand for the iPhone may fall 5%.

The XED of Android in relation to iPhone will be +0.5.

Close Substitute Goods

  • If two goods are close substitutes, there will be a high cross-elasticity of demand.
  • Example, if the price of Sainsbury’s flour increases 10%, demand for Hovis flour may increase by 20%. To consumers, there is little difference between the two goods. Therefore, the cross elasticity of demand is +2.0

Weak Substitute Goods

  • If goods are weak substitutes, there will be a low cross elasticity of demand.
  • Example, if the price of The Daily Mail increases 10%, the demand for the Financial Times may only increase by 1%. Therefore, the cross elasticity of demand is 0.1. These two newspapers are weak substitutes.
  • If the price of margarine increases by 10%, demand for butter may rise 2%. XED = 0.2

Perfect Substitutes

Two goods are perfect substitutes if the utility consumers get from one good is the same as another. For example a dollar from one FOREX

  • A dollar from one FOREX company is worth the same as getting a dollar from a different FOREX company.
  • A4 paper from Office World gives the same utility as A4 paper from WHSmiths.

Therefore, in theory, if one good was more expensive, there would be no demand as people would buy the cheaper alternative.


9 thoughts on “Substitute Goods”

  1. XED = %change in QD good A/ %change in Price good B.

    in this Cross Elasticity formula, it is assumed that price of A is constant. But, in real life scenario both the goods’ price A and price B may change together/at the same time. how can we calculate the XED in this scenario?


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