The Firm as a Bundle of Barcodes
We empirically investigate the firm growth model proposed by Buldyrev et al. by using a unique dataset that contains the daily sales of more than 200 thousand products, which are collected from about 200 supermarkets in Japan over the last 20 years. We find that the empirical firm growth distribution is characterized by a Laplace distribution at the center and powerlaw at the tails, as predicted by the model. However, some of these characteristics disappear once we randomly reshuffle products across firms, implying that the shape of the empirical distribution is not produced as described by the model. Our simulation results suggest that the shape of the empirical distribution stems mainly from the presence of relationship between the size of a product and its growth rate.
Why do firms exist? What determines a firm’s boundaries? These questions have been repeatedly addressed by social scientists since Adam Smith argued more than two centuries ago that division of labor or specialization is a key to the improvement of labor productivity.