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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond

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Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with fresh observations and important lessons in this completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture. This enlightening edition includes new information on: -The latest trends in online retail—what retailers are doing right and what they’re doing wrong—and how nearly ev Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with fresh observations and important lessons in this completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture. This enlightening edition includes new information on: -The latest trends in online retail—what retailers are doing right and what they’re doing wrong—and how nearly every Internet retailer from iTunes to Amazon can drastically improve how it serves its customers. -A guided tour of the most innovative stores, malls and retail environments around the world—almost all of which are springing up in countries where prosperity is new. An enormous indoor ski slope attracts shoppers to a mall in Dubai; an uber-luxurious Sao Paolo department store provides its customers with personal shoppers; a mall in South Africa has a wave pool for surfing. The new Why We Buy is an essential guide that offers advice on how to keep your changing customers and entice new and eager ones.


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Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with fresh observations and important lessons in this completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture. This enlightening edition includes new information on: -The latest trends in online retail—what retailers are doing right and what they’re doing wrong—and how nearly ev Revolutionary retail guru Paco Underhill is back with fresh observations and important lessons in this completely revised edition of his classic, witty bestselling book on our ever-evolving consumer culture. This enlightening edition includes new information on: -The latest trends in online retail—what retailers are doing right and what they’re doing wrong—and how nearly every Internet retailer from iTunes to Amazon can drastically improve how it serves its customers. -A guided tour of the most innovative stores, malls and retail environments around the world—almost all of which are springing up in countries where prosperity is new. An enormous indoor ski slope attracts shoppers to a mall in Dubai; an uber-luxurious Sao Paolo department store provides its customers with personal shoppers; a mall in South Africa has a wave pool for surfing. The new Why We Buy is an essential guide that offers advice on how to keep your changing customers and entice new and eager ones.

30 review for Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping--Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wayne

    Rather disappointing -- it reads like a book length sales brochure for Envirosell, the company the author founded. Every page follows the same formula: A foolish retailer was doing this. I told him to do this. He did, and he is now more virile, has a better looking wife, has more money than he could imagine, and he thanks me daily. This gets old. A few fun tricks of retailing are buried here and there, but the book should be subtitled: How to Get Rich Using Common Sense.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Santhosh

    Firstly, Why We Buy should have been How They Buy, because 1) the book is about insights on shopping (and not shoppers), based on extensive observations of shoppers when they're shopping and, 2) it's addressed from the retailer's point of view, about what they can do to make people buy more things. The structure of the book goes something like this: * Opening scene: the retailers were basically village simpletons who happened to have stores that were being visited by cattle masquerading as custome Firstly, Why We Buy should have been How They Buy, because 1) the book is about insights on shopping (and not shoppers), based on extensive observations of shoppers when they're shopping and, 2) it's addressed from the retailer's point of view, about what they can do to make people buy more things. The structure of the book goes something like this: * Opening scene: the retailers were basically village simpletons who happened to have stores that were being visited by cattle masquerading as customers. Oh, and the world as we know it is about to end! * And then I, in my magnificent self, and Envirosell (insert trumpet blowing), happened on the scene. * Sarcastic commentary with two examples of how ridiculous the current practices were. * Trumpet Envirosell's modus operandi of spending hours collecting data. * Voila! Insert insight such as old ladies products being sold on the bottom shelf. * Sales went up by 88000%. * Deride two companies that didn't take my advice. * Trumpet Envirosell's Science of Shopping. * End credits. Repeat. Okay, it's not that bad. Mostly. If you manage to plough through all the noise, there are some nuggets in there. But it's just that it takes so much persistence and teeth-grinding to actually do so. Where the book does leave a mark is when Underhill talks about facts of consumer behaviour, with empirical evidence arrived at with truckloads of detailed observation of shoppers, data analysis and mining. Such points do provide for some fascinating moments in terms of an anthropological perspective, but Underhill's writing style and personal opinions mean that it becomes a grind. At places the book is just plain sexist, generalised, and archaic with statements like "We always advise our bookstore clients to group sections by gender, acknowledging the tendency of men to cluster in sports, business, do-it-yourself and computers while women troll psychology, self-help, health, food, diet, home and garden." This could have been a truly great book. Or at least a great read, if he had structured this along the lines of David Ogilvy's Ogilvy on Advertising, which was on a similar theme and genre. Where Ogilvy was elegant, simple and prescriptive, Underhill is verbose, tacky and in-your-face.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessie Young

    This book was recommended to me after I became absolutely obsessed with grocery shopping in Santiago, Chile. I think it was the hunt, or maybe just that I had a ton of time, but I went grocery shopping pretty much every day while I lived in Santiago. I found the assortment of foods fascinating and the way they were packaged (mayo in a bag!?) even more-so. I'm also, in general, a very tactile shopper so I was interested in what he'd have to say about that. My expectation was that this book would b This book was recommended to me after I became absolutely obsessed with grocery shopping in Santiago, Chile. I think it was the hunt, or maybe just that I had a ton of time, but I went grocery shopping pretty much every day while I lived in Santiago. I found the assortment of foods fascinating and the way they were packaged (mayo in a bag!?) even more-so. I'm also, in general, a very tactile shopper so I was interested in what he'd have to say about that. My expectation was that this book would be about the psychology of buying. And, in a way, it is. But despite the title, the book is more about the seller side, about what store owners can do to make people buy more things. Perhaps a book entirely about why people consume would be boring because it would all boil down to not having enough love, but I think that this book could have explored that angle more. Another shortcoming is his analysis of online shopping. He knows that people react this way (he says so in the book) but when Underhill says that online shopping will never overtake retail, I think that he isn't fully aware of the power of technology. I, for one, have been converted to buying my shoes almost exclusively from Zappos. Convenience is king. What Underhill does go into depth about is why some stores make you want to buy everything (ummm Target, anyone?) and other stores make you run away screaming (for me, Wal-Mart is a great example). Some of it is fairly basic and general, but other bits are unexpected. I especially enjoyed the way he went into detail on how they gather this information. It's like spy work, but much more data collection! I also liked the international angle near the end of the book. He reminded me of why shopping was so fascinating in Chile: it's just. plain. different. I would definitely recommend this book because after reading it you will never enter a store and look at it the same way. Favorite bits: "butt-brush effect....Shoppers would approach it, stop, and shop until they were bumped once or twice by people heading into or out of the store. After a few such jostles, most of the shoppers would move out of the way, abandoning their search for neckwear." -pg.11 "In some stores buyers spend three or four times as much time as nonbuyers." -pg.32 "more than 60 percent of what we buy wasn't on our list." -pg.47 "Almost no one goes to work empty-handed nowadays. When you think about it, it's a rare moment in the modern American's life when both hands are completely free." -pg.51 "61 percent o the total time someone spends looking at a menu board is done after they've ordered." -pg.68 "Here's another fact about how people move (in retails environments but also everywhere else): They invariably walk toward the right. You don't notice this unless you're looking for it, but it's true–when people enter a store they head rightward. Not a sharp turn, mind you; more like a drift." -pg.78 "Planograms, the maps of which products are stocked where on a shelf, are determined with this in mind: If you're stocking cookies, for instance, the most popular brand goes dead center–at the bull's eye–and the brand you're trying to build goes just to the right of it." -pg.80 "A chair says: we care. Given the chance, people will buy from people who care." -pg.91 "During a series of recent studies, though, we noticed something odd: Around 10 percent of drive-thru customers would get their food and then park right there in the lot and eat in their cars. Curiously, the drivers who did this tended to be in newer cars than the restaurants' average customers." -pg.95 "Eighty-six percent of women look at price tags when they shop. Only 72 percent of men do." -pg.104 "Smart retailers should pay attention. All aspects of business are going to have to anticipate how men's and women's social roles are changing, and the future is going to belong to whoever gets there first. A good general rule: Take any category where women now predominate and figure out how to make it appealing to men without alienating women." -pg.112 "Perhaps the easiest solution would be for women to register their sizes at clothing stores of their liking, then just point their men in the right direction." -pg.114 "What makes women such heroic shoppers? The nature-over-nurture types posit that the prehistoric role of women as homebound gatherers of roots, nuts and berries rather than roaming hunters of woolly mammoths proves a biological inclination toward skillful shopping." "The promise of technology is always that it will make our lives easier and more efficient. Women are the ones who demand that it fulfill its promise." -pg.133 "By 2025, anything smaller than thirteen-point type will be a form of commercial suicide. Even today, as our vision begins to blur, using nine-point type qualifies as a self-destructive tendency." -pg.140 "Any technology that's located on the floor of a store, and that's accessible to kids, has to be build to combat standards–as if it were headed to Kabul or Bagdad." -pg.160 "Even if we didn't need to buy things, we'd need to get out and touch and taste them once in a while." -pg.178

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    As a consumer, this book frightens me; every display, every sign, every detail in a store is designed to part me from my money. I'm pretty aware of that, but the details in this book will frighten you. For librarians, this book has a vital message: marketing (and thinking about marketing) is everything. We have something to sell, even if we don't make a profit. The author, from a science-sales point of view, thinks that books should have age ranges; that's scary to me, but understandable from a s As a consumer, this book frightens me; every display, every sign, every detail in a store is designed to part me from my money. I'm pretty aware of that, but the details in this book will frighten you. For librarians, this book has a vital message: marketing (and thinking about marketing) is everything. We have something to sell, even if we don't make a profit. The author, from a science-sales point of view, thinks that books should have age ranges; that's scary to me, but understandable from a sales angle. He also discusses the "face out" difference between bookstores and libraries. One key point he brings out is that most shoppers are REPEAT shoppers, and therefore a new audience has discrete boundaries. I think libraries need to think about this when trying to increase statistics. Maybe bringing in 3% more patrons isn't the goal...maybe increasing circulation to new and old patrons is. The 2000 edition is dated already. "Personal stereo" made me giggle...no mention of ipod and hardly a mention of Apple, never mind Mac. The chapter on online sales is laughable...like reading a sci-fi novel from the 1800's. It's very good...read it! Your eyes will open, but your stomach will turn.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sanjana

    This book need not have been 250 pages long. Whatever Paco needed to say could have been said in 20 neat bullet points, like those PDFs your uncles forwarded on WhatsApp family groups containing the do's and don'ts of the lockdown. It's also not "Why We Buy" it's "How do we make them buy more". The whole book is written for retailers and tells them how best to arrange things in-store in order to maximize the amount of time customers spend in there and buy more things etc. Some solutions are hidd This book need not have been 250 pages long. Whatever Paco needed to say could have been said in 20 neat bullet points, like those PDFs your uncles forwarded on WhatsApp family groups containing the do's and don'ts of the lockdown. It's also not "Why We Buy" it's "How do we make them buy more". The whole book is written for retailers and tells them how best to arrange things in-store in order to maximize the amount of time customers spend in there and buy more things etc. Some solutions are hidden in plain vision and with very detailed research, Paco and his company can give valuable insights to any retailer, big or small. He could have had a small slice of humble pie before writing this because everything reads quite arrogant. "Nobody knows what they are doing, but here I come telling them what to do and then their sales skyrocket". But I guess this is how one has to be in order to be successful in this world? Arrogance wearing the mask of confidence. Some of his words haven't aged very well either, like when he talks about shopping being inherently female, and that it's a sign of man's virility when he never looks at price tags before paying and that women are always flocking towards cookbook shelves while men head towards lawn mowers. While I do agree that there are differences between men and women, the way in which he generalized the interests of sexes wasn't easy to stomach. Someone who is interested in the how retailers implement certain tactics to get you to buy more would definitely learn something new from this book. It's not as bad as I have made it sound. If you can read through all the fluff, you can find interesting things and every time you go shopping after reading this, you'll notice all the little things Paco points out : kid's products placed in lower shelves or bad sign placement. Just gets a little repetitive is all. Plus this one was written 20 years ago, so some of the chapters are outdated.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Don Draper would scoff and say "what?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9DCaf... I could barely finish this, and I'd say he ripped off Don Draper were it not for the fact that Mad Men was written after this book was. Is advertising really all about love? Hmph. This book is written by Paco Underhill, who presents himself as an arrogant, simple-minded know-it-all who left (cue schlocky singsong playground bully voice) "academia" to go out in the Real World to actually apply all these "scientific" thi Don Draper would scoff and say "what?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9DCaf... I could barely finish this, and I'd say he ripped off Don Draper were it not for the fact that Mad Men was written after this book was. Is advertising really all about love? Hmph. This book is written by Paco Underhill, who presents himself as an arrogant, simple-minded know-it-all who left (cue schlocky singsong playground bully voice) "academia" to go out in the Real World to actually apply all these "scientific" things that he learned in the ivory tower to the retail world. If you don't want to read the book, and I don't recommend that you ever do, this is essentially what it is: 'I mean, these retail simpletons were practically barring customers from their stores before I came on the scene! When I told them to get rid of the flaming spike viper pit in front of the cash registers and to move the Metamucil display from the volcano-based trapeze obstacle course to a middle shelf, sales went up three thousand percent, the store owners became billionaires, and they recommended my company, EnviroSell (tm), to all their friends. Ha, ha!' Okay it's not that bad. Mostly. But that's the impression I got from Chapter 1 to the end. He does go through what retailers should know, and this book is ten years old. It's an interesting idea, and should have been a good book. Some retailers don't think about what would be easy for their customers, or who their customers really are, or what draws attention most effectively. But he presents this information as both a pool of knowledge only his company provides through the Miracles of Science, and also simple stuff that these stupid retailers should know, and rely on me, in my brilliance, to tell them for a fee. It doesn't work. Organizational, behavioral, cognitive, and linguistic psychology more than covers all of the "science" he trumpets as his own genius oeuvre that No One Else In The World thought of before he went corporate. He does manage, in his headlong blind horror movie chase scene of a narrative pace, to accidentally step on some mundanely interesting insights. People watch you while you shop, locking things in glass cases hurts sales, people look at flashy things, customers like to do whatever's easiest, waiting in line feels longer than it actually is, parents will buy things to shut up their kids, women like to shop longer than men do, people fall for "deals," customers like interaction and information when making large purchases, and people like to pretend they aren't spending money. If this guy wasn't such a sad little goober, some of these insights, presented in a completely different way, and multiplied by about 17, would have made the book almost tolerable. I think he didn't quite get there. If I needed one more thing to convince me that he's not some retailing psychology genius, his chapter on internet shopping (written in 2000), sealed it. Essentially this whole stores-using-internet-to-sell-stuff will never take off. People like being in stores too much. How can you replicate the shopping experience on a monitor with tiny images? I want Roger Sterling to rough him up a bit, verbally. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4GfXV...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anna Morgenstern

    Despite the rather mediocre rating, I did learn a lot from this book. There are several reasons that this one got three stars and not four or even five, I'll list a few of them. 1. His know-it-all attitude and cockiness is tiring and annoying and there's only so much you can hear about his company and how he travels the world, all of this self-praise was frankly quite pathetic a certain point as it kept repeating itself on many occasions. 2. Despite trying to appear understanding and progressive, Despite the rather mediocre rating, I did learn a lot from this book. There are several reasons that this one got three stars and not four or even five, I'll list a few of them. 1. His know-it-all attitude and cockiness is tiring and annoying and there's only so much you can hear about his company and how he travels the world, all of this self-praise was frankly quite pathetic a certain point as it kept repeating itself on many occasions. 2. Despite trying to appear understanding and progressive, he made a few remarks that robbed me the wrong way; one, for example, being about Angelina Jolie's biceps being "too masculine". The following few sentences contained also different levels of chauvinism and sexism which literally made my eyes so many times I've lost count. 3. He also mentioned something about how clothing stores should adapt themselves more towards gay people, as to suggest that gay or lesbian persons are necessarily interested in clothes of the different sex (he did say not every gay or lesbian has this one style, I think clothing stores should be more inclusive towards the LGBTQ+ community or people who simply pick their clothing regardless of from which section it's from, but that's a different meaning to what he said). Overall, this book did enrich me with new information, but it was poorly executed and maybe should've been written by a different author.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Here is a literary example of "good idea, bad execution." Underhill has lots of interesting little anecdotes, yet presents them in a disorganized, sometimes arrogant, sometimes wistful, and occasionally creepy style. Some points I found interesting and profoundly true: -You need to be slowed down when entering a store from a parking lot (caught myself speeding past the section I needed in Target just the other day). -Despite my mom's vigilant hand-slapping when I was young, the adult consumer in Here is a literary example of "good idea, bad execution." Underhill has lots of interesting little anecdotes, yet presents them in a disorganized, sometimes arrogant, sometimes wistful, and occasionally creepy style. Some points I found interesting and profoundly true: -You need to be slowed down when entering a store from a parking lot (caught myself speeding past the section I needed in Target just the other day). -Despite my mom's vigilant hand-slapping when I was young, the adult consumer in me touches (and reads!) an awful lot in stores. -I always sensed it, but now realize, just how involved the effort is at every turn in a store to get me to purchase. Sometimes it is annoyingly effective. I suppose I would recommend this book to anyone who operates a retail establishment, but by the 100th or so page, I was bored. Its all the same after awhile... design your store with humans in mind; use a bit of common sense; remember that Underhill is brilliant.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elliedakota

    The author's tone was a major turn-off. The main focus of the book was self promotion. A whole chapter patting himself on the back for hiring women branch heads? Seriously? Plus, even the revised edition is outdated. Trumpeting the success of Radio Shack and Blackberry rings holllow in 2016. I was hoping for some solid information on consumer psychology. I didn't find it in this book. The author's tone was a major turn-off. The main focus of the book was self promotion. A whole chapter patting himself on the back for hiring women branch heads? Seriously? Plus, even the revised edition is outdated. Trumpeting the success of Radio Shack and Blackberry rings holllow in 2016. I was hoping for some solid information on consumer psychology. I didn't find it in this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    Also essential book for anyone curious about the culture of American (and now global) shopaholism. For some reason, I found "Call of the Mall" (the follow-up to "Why We Buy" a little more enjoyable, useful. Also essential book for anyone curious about the culture of American (and now global) shopaholism. For some reason, I found "Call of the Mall" (the follow-up to "Why We Buy" a little more enjoyable, useful.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    I bought this out of interest in the psychology that prompts people to buy things—primarily online. On that score, the book was pretty disappointing. As other reviewers have pointed out, it’s more about the science of selling—and not even that so much as just shedding light on shoddy merchandise presentation. And the (single) chapter on e-selling is pretty much a blow-off. That said, what *is* here is fascinating, humorous, and highly entertaining. Underhill shares anecdotes from a lifetime of s I bought this out of interest in the psychology that prompts people to buy things—primarily online. On that score, the book was pretty disappointing. As other reviewers have pointed out, it’s more about the science of selling—and not even that so much as just shedding light on shoddy merchandise presentation. And the (single) chapter on e-selling is pretty much a blow-off. That said, what *is* here is fascinating, humorous, and highly entertaining. Underhill shares anecdotes from a lifetime of studying shopping spaces and how people use them. If I was a retailer in a physical store, I would have walked away with all kind of treasures. As it is, I still enjoyed the read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mick Bordet

    The good: the book offers some insights into shopping behaviour and even more into the mistakes many retailers make by not treating human beings as people and rather as consumers. It's generally an easy read if you can get past the ongoing advert for his own consulting company. The bad: for an author to spend so much time in telling us all the things people do wrong in trying to sell stuff, you might expect him not to completely miss-sell his own book. This explains how people buy, where and when The good: the book offers some insights into shopping behaviour and even more into the mistakes many retailers make by not treating human beings as people and rather as consumers. It's generally an easy read if you can get past the ongoing advert for his own consulting company. The bad: for an author to spend so much time in telling us all the things people do wrong in trying to sell stuff, you might expect him not to completely miss-sell his own book. This explains how people buy, where and when, and sometimes even why people don't buy, but NEVER "Why We Buy". A great example of how people get manipulated at all levels of life. Think before you buy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I will never be able to go into a business, especially a retail store, without an eye on traffic flow, product placement, the employee and purchaser environmental factors, along with signage, without thinking what I learned about the aforementioned topics. An enlightening read on "why we buy", and also an aid on possibly controlling why we buy. Great book. I will never be able to go into a business, especially a retail store, without an eye on traffic flow, product placement, the employee and purchaser environmental factors, along with signage, without thinking what I learned about the aforementioned topics. An enlightening read on "why we buy", and also an aid on possibly controlling why we buy. Great book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eh?Eh!

    I guess his point is good, that we miss the obvious...but repeatedly stated in such a 'tada!' manner that makes you want to dislike him very much. I guess his point is good, that we miss the obvious...but repeatedly stated in such a 'tada!' manner that makes you want to dislike him very much.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gisela Hausmann

    It’s an excellent book though in a way hopelessly outdated. (I still recommend reading it :)) ) The book is outdated because though I wanted to learn about online shopping strategies, no such information in this book. Relatively recently, I saw “Why We Buy” mentioned in an article; I immediately ordered the book from my local library. The book was depicted in the article, I got the same book. Red shopping bag on the cover (not red shopping bag with white diagonal filed stating “Updated edition ( It’s an excellent book though in a way hopelessly outdated. (I still recommend reading it :)) ) The book is outdated because though I wanted to learn about online shopping strategies, no such information in this book. Relatively recently, I saw “Why We Buy” mentioned in an article; I immediately ordered the book from my local library. The book was depicted in the article, I got the same book. Red shopping bag on the cover (not red shopping bag with white diagonal filed stating “Updated edition (2008).” ) So, here was my frist surprise. The book I borrowed from the library was the 1999 edition. Did I mention it’s outdated? There is the consolation that from what I read in the reviews, by now, the 2008 edition is outdated, too. If I want to cut it short the edition I read refers to the shopping experience as if the Internet did not exist. Today, the bottom line is - If you want to sell what I want to buy I’ll get it online. Author Paco Underhill could not refer to that because in 1999 that concept was a guess at best. That being said, this book is fascinating. For a person like me, it’s a déjà vu experience what shopping at fabulous stores used to be like 20 years ago. Underhill describes in detail, how trackers (field researchers) researched the science of shopping – where products were presented best to help with th eflow of customers through the store how many customers buy a certain product at a certain time of the day, where shopping baskets should be located so shoppers will find them. I found it funny that Underhill explains the example of the shopping basket. Obviously, and this is proven with hard data, if shoppers grab a basket they’ll buy more stuff. He bemoans that stores very often put the baskets right next to the entrance, alongside the wall, where the hurried shopper, or the eager shopper, or determined shopper won’t see them. Well, almost twenty years later, I bemoan the same thing. Not one of the supermarkets where I shop has the basket put in a proper place where I will pass by, often I have to look for them, and frequently they are not immediately replaced when all have been taken. A much more dated example is how teens used to prefer buying 45s (records) hence Underhill argues the 45s should be placed prominently not the 70’s which were more expensive. Does this matter in the days when I just read that an eight years used her mother’s Amazon account to order herself a truckload of toys? Not to the customer because they’ll turn around and order from Amazon. One of the best lines in the book is, “... Retailers are not opening stores in the United States to serve new markets anymore. They are opening stores to try to steal someone else’s customers. ..” No truer sentence has been written about the shopping experience. I could go but for me the bottom line is – merchants and store owners need to read this book. Chain stores should make it required reading. For instance, I like to shop at a certain clothing store (chain). I used to buy at their store in Wilmington, NC. That particular store featured a sofa and two comfy chairs for (tired) husbands, right next to the dressing room. Underhill could have invented the idea. Whenever I shopped there, it was the same. Two or three husbands sat together in that corner, chatting about sports while their wives tried on clothes. The wives would come out of the dressing room and ask, “Honey, how’d like that?” The husband would look up and say, “Beautiful, honey”, the other men would nod approvingly, and then get back to their discussion. The store was always brimming with shoppers, everybody always happy. In a store from the same chain in Greenville, SC – No sofa! The store is half-empty, nobody buys dozens of dresses. Obviously, even though the sofa takes up (valuable) space that could be used for clothes racks it helps selling. Underhill brings hundreds of these examples, including for appliances and cooking products. Getting back to my original comment that I saw this specific edition (1999) mention in an article. Though at first I wondered why it became clear to me that in this complicated market, with online sales soaring, department store managers are encouraged to learn from Underhill, and - learn quickly. Gisela Hausmann, author & blogger

  16. 4 out of 5

    TheFrugalNexus

    This book should be called "How we buy, how I observed people shopping". As I got to the end and the pages remaining on the right side of the book were thinning out, I realized, Underhill didn't answer why we buy. But that's okay, this book was 'alright', like a lukewarm glass of water. It didn't break any ground, didn't revolution retail, was a little sketchy on the 'science' side of things. But I couldn't shake the fact that I was reading a book that was just a big advertisement. This book featu This book should be called "How we buy, how I observed people shopping". As I got to the end and the pages remaining on the right side of the book were thinning out, I realized, Underhill didn't answer why we buy. But that's okay, this book was 'alright', like a lukewarm glass of water. It didn't break any ground, didn't revolution retail, was a little sketchy on the 'science' side of things. But I couldn't shake the fact that I was reading a book that was just a big advertisement. This book features heavy product placement: Envirosell, which is the author's business. Envirosell is"a consumer behavior research and consulting firm" and Paco Underhill is Envirosell's distinguished lord and master. The meat of this book, where he attempts to answer the question on the cover is formulaic. Underhill & Co go to a retailer, like the team of crack investigators on Criminal Minds, set up their tracking equipment and figure out how to make the store better. They watch through cameras and assistants will follow shoppers around the store and track what they do, what they look at, what they touch, how long they spend in a particular area, etc. Underhill doesn't deny this, 90% of the improvements are common sense, usually very obvious, but somehow fell between the seats. His tenure in the business also gave him a strong veneer of arrogance. He goes to the store, like a humanitarian worker goes to a disaster ravaged zone, it could be big box USA or humble operations main street Maine. He and his team set up in store, he observes for a bit, suggest something to the owners, they change it, then ka-ching! The cash registers break because they have so many sales! Repeat this for about 100 pages. There are times when the ignorami with their expensive MBAs from Gudger College defy Underhill and don't implement his suggestions. Underhill goes onto the suggest that they've probably forgone a fortune in sales because of their inability to listen to Paco. I feel Underhill isn't very charitable to the calculus that goes into business decisions, maybe the theoretical business theories prevent them from implementing 'common sense' suggestions, or maybe there were practical reasons to why his suggestions went unused. Underhill did bring up some interesting observations throughout his book, for instance Underhill has noticed shoppers treat the front end of the store as a landing strip. Shoppers want to exit the parking lot as quick as possible, they are moving with purpose and pace to get inside, things too close to the front doors will go unnoticed. Move up the store directory a little bit past the front doors and shoppers will notice and use the directory. Shelf placement was important too, sales in a cream that seniors bought went up dramatically once they were relocated from the bottom shelf, to eye level. Seniors no longer had to get down on their hands and knees to grab it. Underhill also suggested placing products that appeal to children lower down so children could grab them and put them in the cart, a suggestion I felt a little uneasy about. Get off my lawn! Paco Underhill yells at the internet! Where the book really started to come off the rails was the end. Underhill wrote an unintentionally hilarious chapter on the "internet", which basically amounted to an old man yelling about hippies dodging the draft. In the original 1998 publication of this book he wrote that the internet was a fad and nothing more, much like the deliciously ironic article that Newsweek ran about the internet in 1995 (Why the Web Won't be Nirvana by Clifford Stoll, accessed via internet). But here's the thing, Underhill had an opportunity in the 2009 reprint to walk back his earlier criticisms, except he decided to level a new torrent of strange criticisms. He doesn't repeat the same mistakes of the original 1998 book, but he still seemingly doesn't understand the internet. Here is a good example: his colleague told him about a musical outfit called the Balkan Beat Box, sure enough, he found them on iTunes and he bought a few of their tracks for 90 cents a piece. He later complained that that perhaps iTunes could offer limited play options (10 cents for 5 plays or something like that), instead of a limited 30-second preview. I'm listening to the Balkan Beat Box right now, off of Youtube for the modest price of $0. I must confess that I found that nearly every suggestion that Underhill had for the internet was for commercial purposes. Underhill writes that perhaps musical groups could arrange virtual custom playing for an audience. He also suggests that there is a deficit of expert advice, there is no balding man to come around the counter to tell you all about the riding lawn mower you want to buy. Underhill suggests a "hire an expert" service, which undoubtedly exists with the endless confines of the internet. But here is the thing, despite Underhill complaining about the decentralized unfiltered aspect of the internet, the unfiltered decentralized aspect of the internet is actually a strength. You can find a treasure trove of information on products, basically, anything you like. Too much information? Learn what sites to trust for information and follow their metrics, no need to hire experts, plenty of reviewers on sites and Youtube will review products, and do it free of charge. Have a specific question? Most pages that sell the items have a section where customers can ask questions, no good? You can utilize forums and social media to ask questions and get answers. Underhill complains that retailers aren't doing enough on the information front, online retail rectifies this problem in a much better way than the retail world could. I'll offer a personal anecdote as evidence of what I mean. I recently got a dashcam, here is how the internet made the whole process better: first, dashcams are somewhat exotic, nothing I will find at Walmart, but I might spy one or two models at a Bestbuy, the internet has nearly an infinite amount of dashcams. Second, if I were at Best Buy, I wouldn't be privy to how the final footage would look, I would only be able to glean a handful of information from the box. There is a wealth of information on the internet, I even found a reviewer who dissected parts of the dashcam. While I didn't really need to see that, the type of information on the internet for a product is equivalent to the information in a standard municipal library. Standing in the aisle at Best Buy, the information available is limited like one of those slips you find on the ground, inviting you to "Whacky Wednesday, ladies get half off on drinks". Maybe the internet in 2008 wasn't as great as it is now, but it wasn't exactly a Siberian backwater, so I'm not sure why Underhill is so lost on this topic. The biggest disappointment regarding this chapter was that he could've used it to talk in-depth about the bricks & mortar versus the virtual domain. He could talk about Amazon versus entrenched Walmart. He could about how bricks and mortar have failed to capture and compete with online. Did you know Walmart.com has been a thing since at least 2000, Underhill could've talked about how the world's largest retailer fumbled the ball trying to make it in the virtual world, but instead Underhill just rambles about teenagers on his lawn. The chapter after is even more so regrettable, a whole chapter about how Paco-san grew Envirosell internationally. Yes, he went into detail about finding partners abroad and setting up their operations, no great details on the clients, or how their work differed abroad. Why Underhill included this chapter is beyond me, it does not advance the spirit of the book at all and left me with the feeling that this book was indeed an ad. All I could glean from that chapter was that he was growing internationally and if you are a retailer looking for a consultant, you should call up Paco Underhill. I give this book a 6 out of ten. While he does provide interesting tidbits about the retail world, he doesn't go into great depth. He declares what he does is part science, but he doesn't share a lot of the data he collects (perhaps forbidden via contract with his clients). The book has zero endnotes, showing the lack of outside research. The book is one giant recollection of observations, so I wouldn't really look at his work as a contribution to science, even if you want to call "the science of shopping" a thing. 6/10

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roopesh Kesavaraju

    This book help the shopper and retailer to view shopping is not as activity as a experience. For Companies: The retailer or company has to view stores and products as customer and has to questions them as organisation. Are we selling products to make just money or we providing shopping or product experience so that they trust and be loyal to organisation.?? For Customers : Are shopper buying products to full fill purpose or just sake of product is on sale At last Customer is always right and custo This book help the shopper and retailer to view shopping is not as activity as a experience. For Companies: The retailer or company has to view stores and products as customer and has to questions them as organisation. Are we selling products to make just money or we providing shopping or product experience so that they trust and be loyal to organisation.?? For Customers : Are shopper buying products to full fill purpose or just sake of product is on sale At last Customer is always right and customer is king.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megh

    Beautifully explains the science of shopping! How placing one thing besides one thing in a supermarket will do wonders? This book perfectly answers certain kind of question! A must read for a budding retailers. Clearly does justice to the title of the book and answers the questions. Reader will have to be a little bit of patient, explains every chapter in the detail!!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ibrahim Niftiyev

    I am not into sales but this book was interesting enough. Just, the thing is that I can not benefit from it as any salesperson can, so I give 3 stars to indicate more or less mid-level impressions of mine about this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Melyssa

    Good info, but dated There's a lot of good information in this book. I came across several things that we are using to make our small Mom and Pop retail store better. The last bits, though, are incredibly dated. The section on internet shopping needs a serious re-vamp, ESPECIALLY in the era of COVID. I'd love to see an update in a year or so taking post#pandemic shopping changes into account. Overall, though, an excellent resource, and an excellent study of humanity. Good info, but dated There's a lot of good information in this book. I came across several things that we are using to make our small Mom and Pop retail store better. The last bits, though, are incredibly dated. The section on internet shopping needs a serious re-vamp, ESPECIALLY in the era of COVID. I'd love to see an update in a year or so taking post#pandemic shopping changes into account. Overall, though, an excellent resource, and an excellent study of humanity.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Faheem Kajee

    I found parts of this book to be too much of a sales pitch for the author’s consultancy. That said, I think there’re a ton of interesting nuggets about how and what people want to buy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tripleguess

    This was an interesting book for the first couple chapters. I was fascinated by the premise: stores nowadays function as their own advertisement and can affect whether and how much shoppers buy through the judicious placement of signage, merchandise, and staff; however, it's hard to determine what ought to be moved without thorough study of current "traffic patterns" and even then adjustments don't always have their intended effect because "the obvious is not always apparent." Take the "butt-bru This was an interesting book for the first couple chapters. I was fascinated by the premise: stores nowadays function as their own advertisement and can affect whether and how much shoppers buy through the judicious placement of signage, merchandise, and staff; however, it's hard to determine what ought to be moved without thorough study of current "traffic patterns" and even then adjustments don't always have their intended effect because "the obvious is not always apparent." Take the "butt-brush effect," for example -- people don't like to hang round a display, no matter how tempting the contents, if they are bumped from behind by through traffic. Therefore, placing a big table of discounts right by the door is not necessarily a good idea; people get jostled out of interest before they can decide what to buy. After that the book started bogging down in minutiae, and sometimes took on the feel of a bad YA novel, including present tense storytelling. I couldn't see the point being driven at and skimmed the rest of the book, stopping now and then on interesting tidbits like stroller-pushers being effectively barred from many store shelves by the prohibitive narrowness of the aisles. The only other chapter I cared enough about to read mostly through was 18, "The Self-Exam." In short, I thought the basic point was pretty well summarized up front and the rest was rabbit chasing; I couldn't see the forest (if there was one) for the trees. I recommend reading the first few chapters and then (if your attention drifts) skip over to 18 and close the book. The in-between information doesn't readily distill itself into any basic principles, something you could take away from the book, so I don't think you'd be missing much.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    I learned about this book from a coworker at the library and am really glad I sat down to read it. This isn't a very long book, and it doesn't necessarily have to be read all the way through to glean the important points. Nevertheless, I really wish we could make every one of my coworkers read this book! The author uses actual research he's done over years and years to glean new insights into the world of shopping and the people who shop. He researches everything from seat placement to aisle widt I learned about this book from a coworker at the library and am really glad I sat down to read it. This isn't a very long book, and it doesn't necessarily have to be read all the way through to glean the important points. Nevertheless, I really wish we could make every one of my coworkers read this book! The author uses actual research he's done over years and years to glean new insights into the world of shopping and the people who shop. He researches everything from seat placement to aisle width and endcaps. While he never talks about libraries specifically, the information he presents is useful in any retail or service setting. For example, the "butt-brush" effect is surprising and insightful; it's the concept that browsers, women especially, will only linger briefly in an area where they are being brushed or crowded by other shoppers or store employees. It cuts down on browsing time and the comfort of the customer, which leads to less sales, especially from crowded racks. There's also information about where to place shopping baskets/bags, where to place items targeted at children and senior citizens, and how the dynamics of the marketplace are going to change over the next few decades. I highly recommend this book for anyone who works with the public. Once you've read it, make your boss read it. It's worth it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Radnor

    Quick easy read that I would suggest to every adult who holds a job. Underhill is an anthropologist who studies what does and does not work in terms of increasing sales to your customers who have already walked into the store, but its stuff that could be applicable in classrooms to public spaces. He looks at what does or does not make people comfortable, where you should or should not put a sign to ensure it gets read, understanding who buys what and making it easier for them to buy it, etc. Its Quick easy read that I would suggest to every adult who holds a job. Underhill is an anthropologist who studies what does and does not work in terms of increasing sales to your customers who have already walked into the store, but its stuff that could be applicable in classrooms to public spaces. He looks at what does or does not make people comfortable, where you should or should not put a sign to ensure it gets read, understanding who buys what and making it easier for them to buy it, etc. Its full of surprising and sometimes counterintuitive findings that if you really think about them make perfect sense. Such ask, giving up a little counter space to allow a customer to put down their bags at a checkout can actually increase how quickly they can pay, thereby increasing sales per hour (we all know that if the line is too long customers will put down their purchases and leave), putting signs where people are busy or distracted is just clutter, putting it where they are captive/bored audience is actually appreciated (gives them something to look at).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Paco Underhill (with a name like that, how could you go wrong?) takes the tools that he learned as an anthropologist and in the 70's started applying them to the largest tribe in America: consumers and shoppers. It turns out that retailers are willing to pay a lot of money to find out how many towels shoppers will handle before they purchase a set, how many feet from the entrance of a store a display should be placed for maximum exposure, etc. Is Underhill a sell-out? Possibly, but the scales ar Paco Underhill (with a name like that, how could you go wrong?) takes the tools that he learned as an anthropologist and in the 70's started applying them to the largest tribe in America: consumers and shoppers. It turns out that retailers are willing to pay a lot of money to find out how many towels shoppers will handle before they purchase a set, how many feet from the entrance of a store a display should be placed for maximum exposure, etc. Is Underhill a sell-out? Possibly, but the scales are tipped back in the favor of the little guy by the publication of this book. Well done.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lukas Vermeer

    After reading this, I still have no idea why I bought it, or why the word "science" appears on the cover. Perhaps a better title would've been: "How To Design Your Store: Random Anecdotes And Unfounded Assertions (Also Did I Mention I Have A Consulting Business?)" Would not recommend, unless you're the kind of person who likes to read about the author's consulting business, and you accept advice and conclusions presented devoid of methods or evidence, in which case this book would be an excellent After reading this, I still have no idea why I bought it, or why the word "science" appears on the cover. Perhaps a better title would've been: "How To Design Your Store: Random Anecdotes And Unfounded Assertions (Also Did I Mention I Have A Consulting Business?)" Would not recommend, unless you're the kind of person who likes to read about the author's consulting business, and you accept advice and conclusions presented devoid of methods or evidence, in which case this book would be an excellent choice for you. Trust me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I have a thing for anything involving sociology, so I expected to like this book. With the introduction of "the science of shopping" that includes sociology and psychology, it did not disappoint. Some of the obvious things the author points out are downright amusing. This was written more than a decade ago now, but even the author's views on online shopping and successful websites still make sense. Some of the things he suggests have been implemented and duplicated by now, but he still shares so I have a thing for anything involving sociology, so I expected to like this book. With the introduction of "the science of shopping" that includes sociology and psychology, it did not disappoint. Some of the obvious things the author points out are downright amusing. This was written more than a decade ago now, but even the author's views on online shopping and successful websites still make sense. Some of the things he suggests have been implemented and duplicated by now, but he still shares some great ideas about how to improve the shopping experience, which of course, will improve sales.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Devin Stagg

    Way too outdated and honestly the title is deceiving. It should be called "How to Set Up a Retail Store." It's mostly about positioning of merchandise and signs. The title does not fit the content. I understand the book was published years back, but that kills the relevance for me. So many of the "lessons" taught go against common business best practices now. Bottom line, only read this if you are an owner of a local retail store trying to increase sales. For the everyday reader, spend your read Way too outdated and honestly the title is deceiving. It should be called "How to Set Up a Retail Store." It's mostly about positioning of merchandise and signs. The title does not fit the content. I understand the book was published years back, but that kills the relevance for me. So many of the "lessons" taught go against common business best practices now. Bottom line, only read this if you are an owner of a local retail store trying to increase sales. For the everyday reader, spend your reading time elsewhere.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I picked this up, thinking it might serve as a gift for someone difficult to engage in reading. Everyone shops, right? However, finding myself without reading material, except for this book, I started it and was sucked in, the first half or so of it being amusing and sometimes consciousness raising. My initial enthusiasm petered out towards the second half, author Underhill having become repetitive and predictable.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kimberlie

    A friend listened to the audio version and thought of me, so he bought me the book. (Hmmm... me and shopping? I don't see the connection.) I loved it! The author has a subtle sense of humor (doesn't try too hard) and the otherwise dull material was really quite interesting. I'll read it again sometime. Very interesting! A friend listened to the audio version and thought of me, so he bought me the book. (Hmmm... me and shopping? I don't see the connection.) I loved it! The author has a subtle sense of humor (doesn't try too hard) and the otherwise dull material was really quite interesting. I'll read it again sometime. Very interesting!

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