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Use of agent-based simulation: Supermarket

The following passage describes the simulation technology used in SIMSTORE SIMSTORE is based on a real supermarket; it is intended to allow both buyers and sellers to see how they can minimize or maximize the time they spend in the store.

Bilge, Venables, and Casti have developed an agent-based model of a supermarket. SIMSTORE is a model of a real British supermarket, the Sainsbury's store at South Ruislip in West London. The agents in SIMSTORE are software shoppers armed with shopping lists. They make their way around the silicon store, picking goods off the shelves according to rules such as the nearest-neighbor principle: "Wherever you are now, go to the location of the nearest item on your shopping list." Using these rules, SIMSTORE generates the paths taken by customers, from which it can calculate customer densities at each location.

It is also possible to link all points visited by, say, at least 30% of customers to form a most popular path. An optimization algorithm can then change where in the supermarket different goods are stacked and so minimize, or maximize, the length of the average shopping path. Shoppers, of course, do not want to waste time, so they want the shortest path. But the store manager would like to have them pass by almost every shelf to encourage impulse buying. So there is a dynamic tension between the minimal and maximal shopping paths. This model was originally aimed at helping Sainsbury's to redesign its stores to generate greater customer throughput, reduce inventories, and shorten the time that products are on the shelves.

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