Recommended reading – Why We Buy

Note: This is one of the many books that shaped my experience in retail. From time to time, I will recommend other titles that influenced me.


In 1999, I had just left eleven years on the retail floor behind and entered the corporate world of retailing when I took a position as a Training & Development Specialist for a major retailer.

As I began to find my way around campus and began working on my projects, one thing began to become clearer to me.  At the corporate offices, safely separated from customers, it seemed that many people forgot about the customer, the individual person that shopped in our stores.  Instead we spoke of customers en masse as the consumer.  Everything from signage to adjacencies, store policies to operational procedures, racks to dressing rooms were all designed to meet the needs of the consumer as best determined by workers in corporate.  At meetings I attended, I offered my fresh perspective as someone who had recently worked in the stores but the response was usually “isn’t that nice but at corporate we do things differently.”  My frustration mounted.

Soon I embarked on a new project to “freshen up” our sales and service training and the Analysis phase included store visits. During my travels, I was looking for a book to read during the flights so I picked up a copy of a newly published book, Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.  It was the first business book I read where the term “can’t put it down” applied.  As I read through the book and began to understand the scientific perspective involved in shopping, many of feelings and opinions were vindicated.

Soon I was talking to everyone about this book. In fact, I felt so strongly that as the next store manager’s conference approached, I arranged for every store manager to receive a copy of the book. Soon the book began to alter our view of our customers and our stores.

A few of the lessons you can learn from the book include:

  • Why butt brush and boomerang rate should be avoided.
  • Staff initiated contact can increase your conversion rate.
  • The type of light bulbs in a dressing room makes a difference.
  • Shopping baskets should be available throughout your store not just next to the door.
  • If you are going to break the rules, really break them.

I could go on and on about the book, but instead I simply recommend you read this international best seller.


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