Is there a method to our madness when it comes to shopping? Hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a Sherlock Holmes for retailers,” author and research company CEO Paco Underhill answers with a definitive “yes” in this witty, eye-opening report on our ever-evolving consumer culture. Why We Buy is based on hard data gleaned from thousands of hours of field research–in shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets across America. With his team of sleuths tracking our every move, Paco Underhill lays bare the struggle among merchants, marketers, and increasingly knowledgeable consumers for control.
The title for this treatment of marketing research in the retail setting is misleading. Underhill, founder of the behavioural research company Envirosell, summarizes some of the firm’s conclusions about the interaction between consumers and products and consumers and commercial spaces. He lays claim to the research techniques of urban anthropology, but his casual, self-congratulatory tone and loose organization make the book inappropriate for academic use. Underhill breezes through anecdotes about how observing the mundane details of shopping improves retail sales, but there is limited grounding in the framework of his “science.” Given the lack of recent titles on the topic, this is recommended for large collections with an emphasis on retailing.APaula Dempsey, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.
It is fascinating, this business of how and why people shop. Self-styled urban geographer and retail anthropologist Underhill has carved a niche–and a substantially good living–with observations ranging from the purchasing of cosmetics to the positioning of shopping carts and baskets. Here, he explains how he began his retail meanderings, inspired by teacher William H. Whyte (The Organization Man), and what exactly constitutes the shopping science. Each chapter delves into a particular aspect of a store environment and its interface with customers: the importance of signage and why less is more, how men shop (they ignore price tags, for one), the need to cater to boomers, and clues about waiting time. Throughout, insights are peppered with one or several examples; a section on Internet shopping, for instance, uses statistics and case histories to explain why cyber retailing will never command the top percentage of retail sales. Intriguing for both lovers and haters of the game of visual stimulation. Barbara Jacobs