Winning the Retailing War

lfrederick@cahners.com You hear lots of gloom and doom about the future of the independent jewelry store, but I can point you to an expert who would say it’s way overdone. He’s Paco Underhill, author of a fascinating new book called Why We Buy (Simon & Schuster, 1999). Underhill is a retail anthropologist, which means he studies how shoppers react to a retail environment. I’m not using the word “study” lightly. He may not go as far as Margaret Mead in his pursuit of verifiable facts—she lived with her subjects when she wrote her famous book, Coming of Age in Somoa—but Underhill is astonishingly nosy. For the past two decades, he and “trackers” from his consulting firm have been lurking in hardware stores, supermarkets, and bookshops all over America, videotaping or noting shoppers’ every move—what they look at, what they pick up, where they walk with
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