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Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy Paperback – January 3, 2005
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
This book was originally subtitled A Walking Tour Through the Crossroads of Our Shopping Culture, which is more descriptive than The Author of Why We Buy on the Geography of Shopping. Underhill takes us on a walk through the mall, visiting malls throughout the world, and taking a look at some of the neglected areas of the mall. He brings along different specialists, such as an architect, a visual merchandiser (which used to be called a window dresser, but is now much more than that), and a teenage shopper. He and his guests deconstruct the mall and the mall experience. The tone of the book is conversational and amusing.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the mall is how relatively unplanned it all is. I suppose I thought that every aspect of the mall would have been studied and designed for maximum profit, but Underhill reveals that this is not the case.
The parking lot is haphazard, the restrooms are almost afterthoughts, the mall map is useless, the lighting is inadequate, the outside appearance and entrance are uninspired.
You know how you never see a clock in a mall? I thought that was deliberate, like in the casinos, where you are encouraged to leave the real world behind and forget about mundane things like whether it is day or night. After reading The Call of the Mall, I can safely assume it is not deliberate, just something the designers never even thought of.
However, that said, once he starts making certain observations and recommendations, the points are one after another and I found myself needing to highlight almost entire passages or would skim over a passage and find myself needing to go back and read because I would miss the significance of certain passages. At this point, Paco Underhill is at his best. He also shops with various other folks to emphasize the socializing aspect of the mall as the "new town square" that only suburbia is able to provide.
Reading it from a retailer perspective, this book was so full of little tidbits and advice, I found the time spent reading it as worthwhile as any book I have read for purely a work related purpose.
I do not want to give too much of the book away but some of the issues covered are parking in the malls, the location of the malls, the maps in malls, the location of certain departments in department stores or individual stores in the mall and how they fail or succeed in various marketing methods.
I would recommend this book to those who need to see their stores (or mall) with "fresh eyes" but also to anyone interested in the phenomenon of shopping itself.
Essentially, it is hard to know who Underhill is targeting with this work. Is he encouraging consumers to deconstruct mall environments, or illustrating how retailers and developers could improve profit by altering the layout and make up of malls? I get the impression it is the latter, and perhaps this is the reason that the book fails to stimulate, because only a small portion of its readership is likely to be developers/retailers. For this reason, 'The Call of the Mall' reads like an incredibly casual example of the reports he does for companies at good 'ole Envirosell.
Undoubtedly, 'The Call of the Mall' would be better written by an academic. I supposed I wanted cold hard facts, rather than Underhill's subjective observations, irrespective of his footing in retail study. And often, these observations seem somewhat naive and American-centric, particularly in the chapter relating to malls across the world.
Another thing that began to grate on my nerves was Underhill's obvious high esteem for himself and his own talent and wealth. While he balances this with a semblance of humour, it does get annoying. I particularly adored the discussion of a particular Japanese mall, which is near the 'Imperial Hotel' where 'he stays.' Is this meant to be relevant to the narrative or the purpose of the work? I think not. The book is teeming with these kind of discrete but encoded messages.
Overall, a focusless and somewhat boring work, that could have been great with a discernible direction and depth, some actual quantitive facts and less of an emphasis on Underhill's own subjectivities.
Underhill is worth his weight in gold to retailers; many of the simple ideas he throws away in this volume would be incredibly useful to shoppers and thus worth money to retailers (for example, clothes displayed shoulder-out on racks are annoying because you can't see what they look like from the front: why not angle them so they can be seen?)
He eventually takes on the longer-term topic of whether malls have a long-term future in the U.S., at least in their current configuration.
Underhill has adopted a casual conversational tone, as though he were chatting to you as his personal companion (or transcribing an audiotape of his thoughts), perhaps in order to make the book enjoyable to read. He succeeds at this readability goal, but the book seems somehwat insubstantial because of it: there's even one chapter that's only a page and a half long, on Aquamassage stores.
As much as I liked this book, I wish he cut some of this trivia out. Like a nosh at the food court, you end up wishing that you'd had a full meal.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting take on something we take for granted every day.Published 11 months ago by Mathew D. Newcome
Read it. Liked it. It is required for a business class for me. It was in great shape and a super fast read.Published on May 28, 2014 by Catherine Lamb
Paco has put out yet another book worth reading... if you are in retail or marketing read this book (and the science of shopping too, of course!)Published on April 19, 2014 by GPN
Very superficial analysis, it us basically dated. Malls have changed over the last decade. Really not worth the cost and my time.Published on April 18, 2014 by Flavia
Paco's book remains a classic explaining human behavior about and towards retail shopping. It is a must for anyone who has job responsibilities in this area and a really fun read... Read morePublished on August 27, 2013 by Denise the booklover
If your in retail read it, read it, read it... This is very educational-Strong read for a retail would be king!Published on August 13, 2013 by terrance davidson
Some of the authors views were a little biased but with some interesting points. I liked how he provided explanation as to why people shop and the reasons and secrets behind how... Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by Lloyd Schulman
Paco Underhill shares the history of the mall, talks about present day malls and predicts a dismal mall future, but also prescribes remedies for the future that malls could follow... Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by D
I recommend "Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy" by Paco Underhill to anyone who is interested in marketing, retail, merchandising, or... Read morePublished on January 27, 2013 by Chad Thiele