This is part 3 of my series on Why They Buy, a presentation I gave to our local Winona Chamber of Commerce on September 16, 2014. Previously, I wrote about seating and dirty diapers, and my lament to help me help you, dear retailers.  This is based on Paco Underhill’s book, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping and four years of research with undergraduate business students in consumer behavior.

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If I’m making time to run by the store for a few items after work or happily shopping with a female companion I’d like to look cute, thank you very much. THIS BASKET AIN’T CUTE. It’s ugly and plastic and probably sticky.

Is it a crime to want to look stylish while I’m dolling out my hard-earned cash? How about these instead?


As part of our 4-year long study of consumer behavior in our town, we suggested getting cuter baskets for retailers that primarily catered to women. I know, I know. It sounds trite, but women are sensual shoppers. We like to feel, smell, fondle and test merchandise before we buy it. What we hold in our hands makes a direct impression on our decision to buy. If we’re holding a bulky, uncomfortable, plastic basket that becomes too heavy as we’re piling in cosmetics or shampoo or alcohol… we’ll just put it down. We’ll buy less. We’ll get frustrated.

If, and this is very common, we’re ready to switch from a hand basket to a shopping cart and we don’t see one in our immediate vicinity, we’re going to buy less. So, I ask you…


Why can’t carts and baskets be placed throughout the store? When I’m trekking to the back of the grocery store for milk, I’m usually coming out with two or three other things on my way back up to the register. Wouldn’t it be groovy if there were a few carts and baskets stashed in the middle of the store, too?

I have purposely not bought a case of soft drinks on my way back up to the registers because it was too heavy to carry and I was too lazy to get a cart at the front of the store. I’m probably not the only one. 


If you already know you will be grabbing more than a few items, you’ll get a cart at the front of the store. You’ll put your purse in the front basket and, perhaps, your coffee down next to it. The coffee spills and your new purse is stained. You’re frustrated and decide this will be a quick trip. No lingering, no browsing, no extras. No coffee left to cope.

Retailers, I beg of you, for us of the caffeinated sort: If you sell beverages in your store, give us cup holders for our baskets!

Give us cup holders or give us [retail] death! 

Ok, that might be a tad dramatic, but you get the drift.





Speaking of those kiddos. Kids go everywhere, as I lamented in my first post. The average 4-year old American can identify more than 100 brands. If a store is somehow unfriendly to grandparents, kids, parents, care givers, siblings, they will get the message an stay away.

I already talked about breastfeeding places and changing tables, so let’s talk about these other kid retailer issues.


More fun shopping carts with restraint systems that actually work and aren’t caked with sticky kid residue.


More soft, public play areas in the middle of the mall, like this one at Rosedale Center in Roseville, MN. One half-hour of sitting with one eye on a book and the other on my kid along with 50 other stressed out, kidded-out, touched-out parents is 30 minutes that will make you believe God exists. 


Slow clap of the day goes to JetBlu’s toddler play area in the JFK airport in NYC. Someone was thinking here, I’ll tell you.


Motherhood Maternity has a soft play area smack in the middle of the sales floor, right in front of the fitting rooms. Walls are high enough to prevent toddler escapes but not too tall that I can’t keep an eye on the kiddo.


This is CIMB bank in Kuala Lumpur and that’s a bank teller doing a transaction with a kid with the play money children are given when they and their parents walk in the door. Parents are free to do their actual banking business with their actual money and the kids are (a) occupied and (b) learning about money.

Shut up with all that goodness and joy! Someone came to work with their thinking pants on that day, yes sir!

And yet, the granddaddy of them all, folks. Take a minute to savor the goodness that is the IKEA Smaland.


What they really need on this advertisement is how happy the parents are to (a) check the kids into a safe and enclosed area with a (b) ball pit that you don’t even care is probably infected with the Ebola virus and (c) leisurely enjoy their Swedish meatballs in peace.

Here were our recommendations in regard to children retail spaces in our town, because not everyone can install an Ebola-infected ball pit:



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