through the supermarket, picking up the first head of lettuce and never noting the brown spots or wilted leaves—and never even looking at the price. Men do spend more time examining some merchandise, such as cars, boats, barbecue grills, and computers. Nevertheless, Underhill concludes that women demand more of shopping environments than men. Men want to find what they want and get out fast; women are more patient and inquisitive. And you can’t crowd her. One of Underhill’s main findings has to do with what he calls the “butt-brush effect”: Touch someone, especially a woman, from behind, and she’ll immediately move away from the merchandise and often leave the store. At cosmetics counters, women required to stand for a while tend to seek out the corners of counters and buy more than women a few feet away along the main stretch of counter.
Some cosmetic counters have little cul-de-sac recesses to allow shoppers to stand clear. Women tend to seek the cul-de-sacs, such as the areas in airport gift shops, away from the grab-and- run counter where they have the newspapers and gum. Thus, the narrower the quarters, the less time women will spend there. Women like to read labels before they buy, and that takes time and space. However, as Underhill notes, as gender roles have changed, retailers must keep up. Men stay single longer, and as more and more women enter the workforce and become family providers, men are shopping more. And as more and more women have entered the job market, shopping is now something that has to be crammed into lunch hours or predinner routines. To some extent, this is what accounts for the rapid growth of convenience stores. Thus, retailers have to address the decline in shopping time of their best customers. Retailers also need to address the aging of the population in most industrialized countries. For example, in the United States, by 2025, there will be an 80% increase in the number of people over 65 years of age, when they will make up one-fifth of the population. How will or should retailers adapt to the aging of the population? Children today are a major segment of the consumer market. Marketing researchers estimate that in the United States, children ages 2–14 directly influence $188 billion of parental spending, indirectly influence another $300 billion, and themselves spend some $25 billion. If a store is unwelcoming to children, parents with children will stay away. Simple things help. For example, aisles need to be wide enough to accommodate baby strollers. But in one department store that Underhill studied, the babies’ and children’s clothing section was more cluttered with fixtures and racks than any in the store. It was the most difficult to navigate with a stroller and, hence, the least visited part of the store. Underhill also notes that if you want to sell things to kids, you have to put them where they can be seen and reached. In one study of a supermarket, he found that kids and the elderly most frequently purchased dog snacks, but the snacks were on the top
shelves, where they were difficult to reach. When snacks were moved to the bottom shelves, sales immediately increased.
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