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Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping Paperback – 30 Dec 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Texere Publishing; New edition edition (30 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158799044X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587990441
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In an effort to determine why people buy, Paco Underhill and his detailed- orientated band of retail researchers have camped out in stores for over 20 years, dedicating their efforts to the "science of shopping." Armed with an array of video equipment, store maps, and customer profile sheets, Underhill and his consulting firm Envirosell have observed over 900 aspects of shopper/store interaction. They've discovered that men who take jeans into the fitting room are more likely to buy then females (65 percent to 25 percent). They've learned how the "butt-brush factor" (bumped from behind, shoppers become irritated and move elsewhere) makes women avoid narrow aisles. They've quantified the importance of shopping baskets, employees/shopper contact, the "transition zone" (the area just inside the store's entrance), and "circulation patterns" (how shoppers move throughout a store). And they've explored the relationship between a customer's amenability and profitability, learning how good stores capitalise on a shopper's unspoken inclinations and desires.

Underhill--whose clients include McDonald's, Starbuck's, Estee Lauder, and Blockbuster-- stocks Why We Buy with a bevy of retail epiphanies, showing how men are beginning to shop like women, and how women have changed the way supermarkets are laid out. He also looks to the future, projecting massive retail opportunities with an ageing baby-boom population and predicting how online retailing will affect shopping malls. This lighthearted look at the shopping is highly recommended for anyone who buys or sells. -- Rob McDonald, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


.."Underhill..... has made a lot of money, for one simple reason: Many retail environments were broken, and his research helped fix them." -- Business 2.0 (Web), May 30th, 2002

...a fascinating analysis of the factors that both prompt and deter purchase. -- The Bookseller, 25 October 2002

A must read book for anyone doing business in today's complex shopping environment. Paco has the ability to explain the dynamics of today's retail environment. -- Daniel J. Brestle, President, Estie Lauder Inc.

A surprisingly entertaining book which has already become an international bestseller. --, November 29, 2001

Paco Underhill ... discusses in depth how retailers can lay out their stores to maximise their sales to each sex. -- Garden Centre Monthly, 1 July 2002

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Comfortable shoes, the American commercial camouflage uniform-khaki pants, olive polo shirt, no aftershave and good, thick, dun-colored socks. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 23 May 2004
Format: Paperback
The thesis behind this book is that by making the process of shopping easier and more desirable, and the choices clearer, the consumer will buy more. That's very similar to the observation that Taylor made about manual labor. Make it simpler and easier, and more work will get done. The methods are remarkably similar. Measuring the actions that the person under study makes, and changing the environment and process to see how the productivity is affected. I think this work is an important extension of behavioral economics, and hope it will be applied to more areas of business.
Although a book like this could be written in a very technical way, the voice and perspective are quite approachable. Also, the book is written to be equally interesting to shoppers and retailers. I'm sure you notice a lot of new things about your own behavior and that of others the next time you go shopping.
I also thought that the book was a good example of the way that stalled thinking holds back progress. For example, without this kind of observational measurement of shoppers, most retailers would never know which shoppers leave without buying and why. Or, why some merchandising experiments succeed or fail. In both cases, there are opportunities to accomplish more, if you can only grasp how your own decisions and behavior are helping and hurting your sales.
One of the sections I enjoyed was an evaluation of why many book stores miss sales. I often notice the inconveniences mentioned when I am in a book store, and wondered why the stores persist in doing things that make the store hard to shop in. There's a lot of stalled thinking in the industry, which is why we are fortunate to have to help us.
The book does a nice job of discussing how people with different perspectives shop differently.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S Long on 29 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that anybody can read, keep reading until the end and learn from. The author, the first to turn people watching into a quantifiable science offers his years of experience to explain anything from the logics of where city planners should place park benches to the best angle for shelf displays. His observations, a mix of anthropology and quasi-stalker behaviour will leave you nodding your head and seeing any kind of retail experience in a different light. For those with a casual interest in why things are and the way people behave, the book is a stimulating read, even if you have no particular interest in business books (my father took the book off me and couldn't put it down)! For anybody who's business involves customers walking into their premises, this book is a must. It will force you to start thinking not from a perspective of "how can we stack the most jumpers on this display" but rather "how can we make sure customers are comfortable with their experience" (which invariably will lead to higher sales and satisfaction). An easy to read, highly original (i.e not one of those "me too" books out for a quick sale) and non-technical book from a true authority and pioneer in his field.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. Morjaria on 28 Aug. 2002
Format: Paperback
It is true..... you can't put a price on knowledge! This book is filled with thorough observations of shoppers and their habits within a retail environment; Paco and his team will amaze you with the depth of their research and even make you see retailing in a whole new light - their observations of human behaviour will make you smile; this is nothing like you'll ever read in retailing - it's fun, informative and absolutely 'enlightening'! Buy it.... I assure you, you'll not regret it!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Aug. 1999
Format: Hardcover
Paco Underhill writes with an easy style, passing on crucial insights into why people buy things and, of course, why they don't. The book has real substance and an authority that comes from years of observing, at first hand, the way people shop.
As one who is interested in and enjoys the experience of shopping I am frequently frustrated by missed opportunities and poor customer service. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book not only identifies these potential business disasters (and their causes) but also provides actual, practical solutions, adding Mr Underhill's own views on what should be done where stores have yet to act. The book also has plenty of examples of people doing it right and contains a sprinkling of pertinent statistics. The end result is a thoroughly readable book which can't fail to enlighten anyone who reads it.
This book should be required reading for all retailers and shop managers - it's an entertaining, informative read for shoppers too. Let's hope it has the positive effect on the experience of shopping that it deserves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Quicken refugee on 19 July 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are involved or interested in retailing, in understanding just what it is that makes the difference at that critical "shall I.....shalln't I....." moment, you must read this book.
It's a light read - insight into human behaviour is always amusing - but its message really strikes home. If you're in retailing, you'll look at your operation through new eyes. If you're a consumer or simply a people watcher, no shopping trip will ever be the same !
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Format: Paperback
I have bought a lot of books in my lifetime and as a result of this have a stack of books that I have yet to read. To a book lover, a stack of books is a wonderful world of opportunity but within it lie books that it will turn out I don't like at all that are just wasting space. I really need to read them and decide if they are keepers or should be given away. I borrowed this book from a friend which gave it the distinct advantage of disappearing back to their bookshelf when I had read it. Unfortunately I loved it.

The fantastic nature of this book is only unfortunate because it means I now want to buy the updated version. This is a book I know I will want to return to time and time again.

Now for the important part: why is this a good book?

"Why we buy" is a great book because it will either illuminate a whole hidden world to you or reiterate that you were right all along.

What Paco Underhill does for a living is not magic or a mysterious science, it is common sense. He shows retailers (and through this book - us) things that they were too far in to see. When retailers go to all that hard work and spend so much money on their store it is hard for them to kill off ideas that they were sure would work but didn't. They become emotionally and financially invested in their grand plans, especially smaller retailers.

Shoppers become frustrated when things are as efficient or user friendly as they would like but don't have the time to figure out why things aren't working - that's the store's problem. Most shoppers also don't think giant multinational businesses would listen if they told them their baskets were in the wrong place or their shelves too low. Underhill uses his respected voice to communicate what the shopper wants to the retailer.
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