Paco Underhill has a genius for retail. As a follow-up to the bestseller Why We Buy, he has written an arch entertaining ethnography of the shopping mall. Energized by two dripping cinnabons, Underhill guides readers on a walking tour to encounter senior mall walkers, teen jean and hoodie shoppers, shoe fetishists, six second sales greeters, kiosk vendors and food court diners.
He nails our ambivalence about indoor shopping saying, "the mall, like television, is an easy American target for self-loathing. We look at the mall and wonder: is this the best we could do?" He gets the devil in the details with wonderful riffs about global malls, parking spaces, the "free" gift with cosmetics, retail tribalism (Nordstrom versus Ann Taylor, Pac Sun versus Abercrombie) and why CD and bookstores have returned to city streets. But Underhill doesn't whine. When he critiques multiplex theatres, raunchy bathrooms or the absence of coatrooms, he also offers witty suggestions. For example, how to turn a well-appointed restroom into a profit center.
Underhill is convinced that online shopping and fatigued boomer shoppers are leading to the "post-mall era." This kind of prediction makes The Call of the Mall a great read. It is a smart, observant meditation--one that suggests the past and the future of our shopping culture. --Barbara Mackoff [via]