In an effort to start the new year in the right frame of mind, I just finished reading Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy. I’ve been putting off actually reading the book for a while now because I thought I didn’t need to, having long since been familiar with his most famous theories such as butt brush and bending time. Now that I’ve finished the book, I can join the chorus of believers singing “You have to read Why We Buy!” What an eye-opener it was!
As a little teaser for those unfamiliar with Paco, his company conducts research on shoppers and shopping. Through the use of hidden cameras, watchers and surveys, he and his staff observe how shoppers interact with displays, store personnel, labels and hundreds of other variables. His clients include everyone from Wal-Mart to Neiman Marcus and newsstands to electronic super stores. Why We Buy is a compilation of the knowledge Paco has gained through 20-plus years of observing and researching shopping, and the book is filled with anecdotes, both good and bad, from stores you’ll know. Why We Buy tells you how long college-educated people read vitamin labels, how often trying something on converts to buying it, and why the front door is not a good place for shopping carts.
Wondering what any of this has to do with garden retailing? I thought you’d never ask. Why We Buy outlines the basic, universal philosophy behind shopping, and that philosophy applies whether you’re buying a computer or a potted plant, whether you’re on Rodeo Drive or Main Street. No matter who you are or what you’re buying, you can only carry so much, you can only read certain size type and you’re only going to stand in line so long. Therefore, if we know that narrow aisles in a department store, where people, especially ladies, have to brush up against one another, lead to lower sales then we can infer that narrow aisles in the pottery department will have the same effect. (This, by the way, is the basics of butt brush.)
Since the book’s examples are not from our industry, it does often require some thought to make the tie-in. This is not one of those easy reads where you can absorb everything by osmosis, but it’s certainly worth the effort.
So as I’m wont to do in the January issue, I find myself thinking about New Year resolutions for the industry, and this year, I’m going to focus on just one suggestion: explore the world of retailing beyond lawn and garden.
Part of this will of course mean reading Why We Buy. But it will also mean touring something besides garden centers, reading trade magazines from other industries and realizing that garden retailing is more than just having a great product.
I know it’s a pretty tall order, and everyone has just ssoooo much time. Still, I figure that if we can master this, we’ll be unstoppable.
Lastly, the staff of Lawn & Garden Retailer wants to thank our readers and advertisers. 2004 was another great year for us, and we’re looking forward to an exciting 2005. So from everyone at Lawn & Garden Retailer Bridget, Carrie, Catherine, Doug, Felix, Kelley, Mackenzie, Tami and Tim we wish you and yours a prosperous new year that fulfills all your wishes.