Book Review: The Global Market Gets Female Friendly

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Attention shoppers! It’s taken decades of research and a financial slap upside the head, but the CEOs of retail have finally seen what’s been in front of their faces all along: Women are driving the economy. And it took a man to point out that not-so-surprising-to-the-rest-of-us fact.

In his decade-spanning psychological shopping manuals, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping (2000) and What Women Want: The Global Market Turns Female Friendly (2010), retail consultant and shopping guru Paco Underhill presents a bizarre bazaar of economic information in a fun and stylish manner.

Women possess a financial power that has gone unrecognized by many industries, and yet it shows no sign of abating. What Women Want may sound like another dating manual, but it’s an eye-opening account of how global retailers are beginning to court the customer they’ve counted on but haven’t been counting.

Underhill approaches his shopping environments with the eye of an anthropologist. He is the Dian Fossey of the Galleria and the Charles Darwin of consumer behavior. In Why We Buy, no retail industry is safe from his microscope. Underhill prowls malls, gyms, hotel lobbies, farmers markets, techno-gadget stores, and even turns his wily eye on the real estate market. His finding: Women have made lasting changes in how all of these businesses stay in business.

Ever notice how much more comfortable and safe hotels are? Underhill has and makes note of it in What Women Want. Thank the rise in traveling female executives. Because of them, and their insistence on cleanliness and safety, hotel keys are digitized and room numbers are written discreetly on pieces of paper which can be thrown away. Beds are bigger and have more pillows. Surfaces and edges are softer, rounder, and warmer. The lighting in bathrooms is better, and the showers now have those curved rods and curtains.

We’re all consumers of one sort or another. Underhill wants readers to understand their own purchasing behavior. After browsing these two books, the strip mall or open-air market will never look the same the next time you’re there. Why not pick up one or the other and diagnose your own consumer proclivities?


About the Author

Kaite Stover

Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Head of Readers’ Services for the Kansas City Public Library. She is a regular guest on KCUR's Book Doctors segment and moderator of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Club. Kaite is the She Reads columnist for Booklist and the co-editor of The Readers’ Advisory Handbook. She has written articles for Public Libraries, Reference & User Services Quarterly, and Library Journal and contributed chapters to Research-Based Readers’ Advisory, Integrated Advisory Service, and The Reader-Centered Library. She can tap dance, read tarot cards, and doesn’t bite.