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Paperback Why We Buy : The Science of Shopping Book

ISBN: 0684849143

ISBN13: 9780684849140

Why We Buy : The Science of Shopping

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Book Overview

Is there a method to our madness when it comes to shopping? Hailed by theSan Francisco Chronicleas "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 Buyis based on hard data gleaned from thousands of hours of field research -- in shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets across America. With his team...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Fascinating, albeit mistitled, book

I somehow imagine a team of marketers and sales strategist at Simon & Schuster sitting with Underhill's manuscript and trying to make the book seem snappier, a little more soundbiteable. After all "Observations on Shopping Mannerisms by Anthropologist turned Retail Consultant" doesn't have the same tone as "Why We Buy" which rings with a promise to explain our deepest desires for material goods. Alas, the title misleads (not living up to Underhill's explanation of the function of the sign, even if it is only three words short...and in some ways, one must consider every book cover fulfilling the function of store signage). Rather than "Why", the book is more of a "How". In what ways do consumers function within a retail space? What are the deterrents, the subtle incentives to stay in a retail space, the final closing environment for the sell? How do consumers function based on demographics? What is the architecture of the retail environment? What makes a consumer buy or not buy? These are some of the questions that Underhill seeks to answer with his team of field observers who track (unbeknownst to the shoppers), tape and interview shoppers. Some reviewers have mentioned how commonsensical some of the observations are. Yet, it's one of the aspects that is always surprising about retail: that the commonsensical is ignored because so many of the decisions are made by corporate executives who do not spend enough time in the retail environment. Yet, on the rare occasions when a corporate executive will spend time in his/her company's retail executive, genuine observations will not come easily as an employee's perception is colored by his/her own preconceived ideas about what the company is. Additionally, it's difficult to perceive judiciously every single reaction one has but each easier to perceive on a surface level the reaction of others. For instance, when I read Underhill's observation for a need for a "transitional space" between the parking lot and actually starting to be absorbed in the retail space, I immediately understood what he meant, remembering my own shopping experiences and needing some time to take off my coat, close my umbrella, etc. Yet, I could never have articulated that in the way Underhill has done after minute observation. I loved the chapter on the senses and shopping. One might say that the boom of the farmer's market in recent years can be partly attributed to a more interesting sensory experience than the often sterile, air-conditioned supermarket experience (of course, there are also political agendas and food issues that come into play). Yet, when I go to an interesting farmer's market with tables displaying a bounty of produce, freshly baked goods, beautiful flowers, handspun yarn...the displays of multiple colors, smells, as well as the varying characters of each vendor all make the farmer's market a more pleasurable experience than shivering through a supermarket where I am confronted with mediocr

Every consumer should read this classic

I used the first edition of this text in an American-studies graduate class. This newer edition is a bit updated (always good in a field like this) but mostly just in the last chapter, which is about electronic (internet) shopping. So, if you already have an earlier edition, you probably don't need this one: going to a library to check out the last chapter would be enough to update you. However, if you have no edition, I highly recommend "Why We Buy." Whether you are in the biz of selling or you are just an average consumer, this classic belongs on your shelf and should be periodically reread. I had my daughters read parts of it when they were teens so that they would become aware of how seriously the shopping industry is researched and geared to manipulate shoppers.

Why We Buy

Paco Underhill's revision of this extraordinary book is even better than it was when it was first published. This new edition is jam-packed with amazing insights into consumers and how they shop that have never been available elsewhere. If you have anything to do with selling consumer products or the business of retailing this is one book you absolutely must read. It is also one of those books that you will want to highlight key ideas and passages and reread again and again.

Research-Based Insights

Two kinds of people will really like this book. You'll like this book if you're responsible for the merchandising in a retail store anywhere. You'll also like this book if you're fascinated by human beings and how they act in their natural habitat. Why We Buy is as much an anthropological study as it is a business book. Paco Underhill describes what the title implies: Why We Buy. He looks at all of the elements that go into merchandising, such as the signage in a store, the width of the aisles, waiting times, and more. That might be enough, but he also will give you insights into different kinds of shoppers and the differences in the ways that men and women - as well as adults and children - shop. Along the way, you'll pick up interesting tidbits, such as the distinction between marketing and merchandising. To Underhill, marketing is increasing the number of people who come to the door with interest, while merchandising is everything you do after that and leads to selling on the floor. He has insights to share, based on his research, about both.This is an excellent book except for one part. The section on the Internet and Web are simply weak. They show a lack of understanding of the Web as a retail medium and of how the Web, catalog operations and physical stores will each function in the Digital Age. It seems to me like this section was inserted because "there has to be something about the Web." I would have preferred that Underhill either lavish the kind of attention and effort on Web selling that he so obviously has spent on physical stores, or had left the Net material out of this book all together.Even with that problem, this is an excellent book. If you're responsible for a retail store, this book is a "must read." If you're a customer, you may want to recommend it to the owners of stores where you shop especially the ones where you love the merchandise, but hate the shopping experience.

Retailers can't lose, a must read!

The retail industry has and will continue to face monumental challenges when it comes to getting customers to shop and purchase. As a consultant who has spent 20 years working with all types of retailers this book offers real tools and real life issues that this industry must face. No one has ever stepped out and quantified with hours of videotape how customers shop in such a realistic and engaging way as Paco Underhill. I applaud you for sharing your many years of research with us and supporting the research with commen sense! There is much to be learned by reading this book. For retailers of all kinds this book should be read before you re-merchandise your floor, make new signage, sign on for the next advertising campaign or send your staff to a training program. The most important aspect of this book is the concept that the store=brand. What happens within the four walls will make or break it. Read this book with the intention of trying something new or at the least, read this book and believe the greatest asset any retailer has is the store! If a book like this was not needed we wouldn't have 50% of retail businesses fail every year.Thanks Paco. Mindy Thompson, founder, Simply Retail Inc Mpls, Minnesota
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