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The Inside Scoop

One expert's take on today's retail scene

Paco Underhill, consumer behavior pioneer and founder of Envirosell, a global research and consulting firm based in New York City, has followed up his international bestseller Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping with the new title Call of the Mall. Here, he shares a few retail insights:

What's one critical trend today's retailers need to watch?
Paco Underhill: A store is a 3-D brand. Everything that's there has to be there for a reason. The way the independent merchant survives is by doing it better or by being more nimble or creative.

So what makes a store "good" today?
Underhill: Entertainment. Being on top of fashion trends. Recognizing that people are more time-poor than money-poor. One very key concept now is value trending, where you give people the excuse and opportunity to trade up. With value trending, you have an item for $12 and a similar item for $17. You have the option to buy either; but there are benefits to buying the more expensive item, such as better quality.

Should nonmall retailers be watching their local shopping centers?
Underhill: It's critical for any merchant to recognize that they're in a bar fight for dollars. They have to be conscious of trends across the merchant spectrum. Go check out Sam's Club, but also check out the new Bulgari.

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the July 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Inside Scoop.

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