Cultural appropriation: private equity goes quant

Machines are helping venerable shops find under-the-radar performers and factors that drive them

Researching a company as a possible private equity buy can sometimes involve a lot of shoe leather.

Junior staff might fan out to stores, noting how products are displayed on shelves, asking customers what they think of the wares and shop owners whether the goods move quickly or end up in a storage room.

Now, a handful of private equity shops are doing something they’ve not done before: they’re going straight for data.

For instance, Bain & Company, an adviser to private equity shops (not to

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