Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping

Title: Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
Author: Paco Underhill
Genre: Factual/retail business
Readability: Very good + entertaining

For more than 20 years, the retail consultant Paco Underhill has studied how people behave in department stores and the like, using video recordings and a host of researchers. In this book, he basically sums up all the knowledge he has gained about our shopping habits, and he does so in a very accessible and humorous way.

Why We Buy has an almost anthropological feel to it as it describes the weird shopping habits of women, men, children, and women who drag their men and children with them. A favorite of mine is the Butt-brush Factor, which refers to the fact that a woman will leave a store display immediately if the aisles are so narrow that passers-by accidentally brush the woman’s butt while she is contemplating the goods on display. The book is filled with little observations like this one.

A must read for people who are in the retail business, and a good read for just about everybody else interested in consumer behaviour. I felt like trying to run a department store after reading it.

By the way, Underhill also wrote a follow-up, Call of the Mall. That one, though, is not nearly as good, and is written in a really annoying style. (“We are driving towards the mall. It is big. [etc.]”) Only read it if you have a specific interest in American shopping malls.

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