The product differentiation hypothesis for trade credit says that business managers use trade credit like advertising to differentiate their products. Prior studies of this hypothesis conclude that higher profit margins induce firms to increase trade credit and vice versa. We better represent the relation between the cost of bad debts and the price of the product offered on credit. When prices are higher, firms suffer greater losses from non‐payment. Our model shows that, contrary to early versions of the product differentiation hypothesis, when managers adjust trade credit and profit margins for a perturbation in marginal cost, optimal profit margin and trade credit may move in
oppositedirections. A manager maintains revenue for price elastic demand by moderating the price increase, which decreases profit margin. At the same time, the manager also increases trade credit, which serves to maintain revenue by encouraging product demand. We report evidence of a negative relation between corporate receivables and profit margin. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.