March 2003

Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping

Simon & Schuster

  • 1230 Avenue of the Americasr
  • New York , NY

212.698.7000

The Science of Shopping:

Why is milk located at the back of the supermarket? Why does the Gap use wide, flat tabletops more often than racks and shelves in their displays? Why does Sephora put merchandise out despite the inevitable damage? Paco Underhill’s entertaining book, abc Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping xyz , answers these and other questions you've probably never thought to ask. Geared towards retail executives and shoppers alike, this book sheds light on common mistakes in visual merchandising, tips for stimulating retail sales, and ways to improve the shopping experience.

Some of Underhill’s findings include:

  • One or two salespeople should be bilingual to help with foreign shoppers.
  • The more shopper-employee contact, the greater the average sale.
  • People walk toward the right when they enter a store.
  • People slow down when they see reflective surfaces.
  • If the average customer comes every two weeks, then store windows need to be changed that often.

Underhill is the CEO of a retail market research firm whose "spies" watch shoppers' every move. Creepy, yes, but look how much can be learned! The book is peppered with insights. Why didn't that senior citizen buy that bottle of aspirin they needed? (Because raucous teens kept raiding the soda cooler nearby.) Why did the young dad pushing the baby stroller forego the jeans he was eyeing on the wall shelves? (Because he couldn't get the stroller past all the racks of clothing in his way.)

This data should be taken seriously, but the text is so witty that you forget you're learning! Even if you're not a vice president of a retail company or a window designer, you're probably a shopper. And after reading abc Why We Buy xyz , you will never look at the shopping experience the same way again.

Reviewer: Kirstie Harless, FIDM Library Staff Member, S. F.