It's cheaper and faster than ever to collect reams of information: it's wisdom in using this information that is in short supply. And you really should have some rubber soled shoes.
These were some of the things Paco Underhill talked about in his keynote last week at the joint QRCA/MRIA-QRD conference. Paco is the hugely successful analyst of shopping behaviors and author of very successful books on the subject, Why We Buy and Call of the Mall.
Inner Context of the Shopper
One of the most interesting observations he made is that we all shop more often, even though we live in a state of accelerated time. We go into a store with a specific mission, and if we don't fulfil it, may leave empty handed. That mission, even for the same person in the same store in the space of the same week, could have very different characteristics, based on the value system and emotion at play due to the inner context.
For example, shopping for a child's birthday cake, shopping for tonight's dinner, and shopping for the weekend when the relatives you dislike will be visiting. And in some respects, we need to treat each of those scenarios as if we were dealing with a different customer.
The Key Question
The key question, for Underhill, is always: "how do I respond to local market conditions and build same store sales?" Depending where in the world you are, these challenges are vastly different.
When speaking of the global middle class, 2/3 of our expenditures are discretionary. We don't need to spend money on much -- someone has to entice us to spend.
In other parts of the world, money is a new and exciting toy, and that's where all the innovation is happening in retail. Underhill shared some excellent examples of this.
Underhill described Roppongi Hills as the "All Mall". It has hotels, an art gallery, residential towers, and a multitude of recreation facilities. One of the unusual elements is the large amount of public art that has been included throughout the facility, both inside and outside.
Creative use of space in Johannesburg
What you are looking at here is a drive-in movie theatre on the roof of a shopping mall (the Menlyn). A great use of space, and a good way to bring more traffic into the mall.
Another example cited by Underhill was a mall owner who built a stadium for student athletic activities on adjacent land, solely to drive traffic into the food court of the mall.
Forget about Parking in Sao Paolo
In order to bring traffic into the mall from the nearby office towers, this mall offers a free shuttle bus service that will pick people up and then run them back in complete safety so they can shop over their lunch hour.
Finding Happiness in Tokyo
Three Minutes of Happiness is the name of a chain of stores in Tokyo that sell inexpensive items for everyday use. Here's the description from Frommer's guide:
Bargain yen shops have opened all over Japan the past few years, but this is one of the best I've seen. It carries tableware, household goods, office supplies, cosmetics, watches, sunglasses, some basic clothing, and many other simple items, mostly in bright and happy colors like lime green and sky blue.
Although these shops seem very well designed, they are reminiscent of one of the fastest growing categories of shopping at home: the dollar store, and other deep discount formats, that are the antithesis of good design.
Underhill compared Dubai to the cantina scene in the original Star Wars movie, and called it the first place on the globe that is ready to receive the intergalactic traveller. You can get anything you want, and you can pay in any currency you choose. Dubai apparently has fifty major shopping malls, in addition to the more traditional souks.
Underhill believes that landlords of shopping malls must go from being landlords to being placemakers. And the best ones are reaching for this. But there is still a lot of room for improvement.
His main recommendation, which we heartily endorse: get some good shoes, and get out the office to see what's going on.