Oct 7, 2006

where to plant a banana stand

In one of my favorite scenes from Arrested Development's third season, Michael Bluth has just allowed his brother GOB (pronounced "Job"*) to start his own frozen banana stand franchise. Where does he set up? Right across from the other Bluth banana stand. "Research shows that more bananas are sold in this location than anywhere in the O.C.," GOB proclaims.

Naturally, I thought of that when reading this study that attempts to mathematically model what store owners have known forever:
Physicist Pablo Jensen from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon, France, analysed location records for more than 8500 retail outlets in the city. He found that the shops formed clusters, with shops such as butchers and delicatessens in one group, for example, and laundromats and bookstores in another. Stores of the same group seemed to attract each other, while stores from different groups repelled each other.

Jensen then adapted a theory of magnetism to calculate a number, Q, for shops, based on the proximity of attractive and repellent businesses in the area....

Jensen calculated Q for all the bakeries in Lyon in 2003 and 2005. During that period 19 bakeries shut down, and Jensen found their average Q was significantly lower than the average for all bakeries.
Butchers and bakers seem to do well together. No word, though, on candlestick makers.

*Pronounced "Jobe."

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