Paco Underhill

CEO of Envirosell Inc., Speaker, NY Times Best-Selling Author

Paco founded Envirosell Inc. in 1986 as a testing agency for prototype stores. A consulting firm that does research, Envirosell has worked in 46 countries and with more than half of the Fortune 50 list. With branch offices in London, Milan, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Mexico City and Sao Paulo – it has a global reach. While prototype testing of stores, restaurants and bank branches is still 30% of its business, its largest clients in 2019 are technology companies trying to understand consumer behavior in store, in home, on the job, and on-line. Other clients include global Mall Developers, CPGs, Healthcare groups, Airports, Professional Sports Clubs, Theme Parks, Home Builders, Office Designers, and On-Line Agencies.

Paco is the author of popular books including Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping out in 28 languages and used in MBA programs, Design Schools and Retailing Training Programs across the world. His books and articles are used in English as a Second Language (ESL) textbooks published by both Oxford University Press and National Geographic. His newest book with a working title of The Future of Eating and Drinking will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2021.

As a speaker and presenter he has worked in 50 countries talking to merchants, marketers, bankers, technologists, hospital groups, government agencies and most importantly students. As the son of a diplomat who grew up around the world – he has a global perspective and believes in Edutainment – laughter and education are intertwined.

  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Growing demand for local products leads to out-of-stocks

    Both the food and the adult beverage markets are facing a local vs. global problem. The below-the-radar growth of farmers markets (where the range of local products is expanding - beer/wine/cider/whiskey and meats, not just fruit and vegetables) is teaching consumers they have choices. Climate change experts are also predicting that California will in 10 years not be able to produce the greens to feed the nation as the state has for decades. Where are we going to get our greens in the winter? The question isn't out-of-stocks, it's sourcing and inventory control.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    How should retailers raise prices to offset tariffs?

    Cost of living for Americans is low compared to the rest of the world. That said, we need to see in our daily lives the impact of global politics -- trade wars, climate warming, gun control, reproductive rights, and the cost of goods at Walmart. Merchants have to do what they have do -- including raising prices.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Kroger launches accelerator fund

    The American Grocery industry needs a refresh. We have no real national chains and the thought leaders are regional often family owned chains that are not afraid of taking risks. Kroger historically has stood on the sidelines and watched -- cherry picking the winning idea that others have experimented with. Glad to see that leadership is trying to break that pattern.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2019

    Lands’ End is looking to get out of Sears like a bat out of hell

    Hell yes. Lands' End is viable and has shifted well with the tides. Sears is badly aging compost that needs to join Montgomery Ward in the retail history books.
  • Posted on: 04/29/2019

    Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab store runs on AI

    What does a good store manager know? Traffic by day part, by day or the week. Demographic profiles -- again by day part, by day of the week. Operational issues -- on-going -- baskets, lines at checkout, chronic out of stocks. Generally predictable with 70% accuracy to a good store manager. What does getting to a high percentage do? Not much. Retail's/AI's challenge is to know what the manager doesn't know that is actionable with available resources. We are looking for a better mix of Art and Science. We need to start with what we already know ....
  • Posted on: 04/26/2019

    Will the promise of straighter smiles bring more customers to CVS?

    Saisbury's, the UK grocer, has had dental offices inside a few of their stores since 2015. Their offer is to drop off the kids for a cleaning while you shop. The issue for CVS in the USA is the patchwork of dental insurance coverage in any US community -- even worse than health insurance....
  • Posted on: 04/25/2019

    What’s really driving disruption? (Hint: it’s not technology)

    What made a good store in 2000 and what makes a good one in 2019 are different. Retail is the dipstick of social change. The bigger the merchant, the greater the challenge to keep up with that evolution. Historically, American retail as been about birth, life, death and compost. We got a lot compost and more coming. I agree, tech is a byproduct of social change, not necessarily a driver -- keep your eye on what your female customers are doing....
  • Posted on: 04/18/2019

    Will former exec’s Godiva café plans spell trouble for Starbucks?

    Godiva is now a Turkish owned company. The Godiva Cafe has been a stable in Middle Eastern high streets and shopping malls for some ten years. The cultural innovation is the crossing of stimulants -- coffee, tea, and chocolate in a social setting. It is comfortable place for women to meet. The quality of the "supporting cast" of baked goods and "petite sandwiches" is high. Think of Godiva -- the princess riding her horse, not Starbucks the mate on a whaling ship. The world of legal stimulants is recognizing the importance of the female customer....
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Should retailers worry that secondhand apparel is flooding the market?

    It ain't used, it's vintage. Shopping secondary markets is seen as being smart and fun. Goodwill and others are getting more sophisticated about how they offer goods. Harajuku in Tokyo is a scary example of where the market is going. Cool looking kids on the street with sign boards guiding you to fourth story stores -- cheap real estate. Funky location. Kwell music. Hip staff and great margins. What can Gap learn from this?
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    What does it take to produce promos that pop?

    Price promotions are like heroin -- the more you use them the less effective they become. There are other, better ways to price and feature produce. the Netherlands based company has dynamic signage that lets produce be discounted based on an expiration date. Japanese supermarkets show pictures of the farmer and the field where something is grown.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    The national chains like Walmart have difficultly placing orders with small and medium sized suppliers. With the trend in food and adult beverages towards local, why not buy locally as much as possible and have a different offering? And thus have no price issues....
  • Posted on: 03/20/2019

    Will a new name and private labels give DSW a leg up on the competition?

    The most impactful technology in modern retail has been supply chain management. Over-runs and over-stocks are so much better controlled. The broader outlet business has had to react. Many outlets are now directly sourced. DSW is shifting to the changing market. The Shottenstein family, owners of DSW and American Eagle, deserves credit for being one of the premier merchants in America. In past fifteen years they have navigated the evolving retail landscape with much skill. A good book, or better yet, a television soap opera waiting to be produced....
  • Posted on: 03/19/2019

    Can Walmart lead the fight to eliminate plastic waste?

    Yes. Just as Walmart has taken the lead in energy and water conservation for big boxes. They need to project a time line and protocol for the process. Remember Walmart's original strength was in trucking and warehousing. This is also about the power of the Walton family as stockholders and board members. Environmental and cultural issues are important to them.
  • Posted on: 03/18/2019

    Can location intelligence provide a lifeline for retailers?

    Tough. Merchants have had census data for decades that gives a very good picture of who is where. Ethnicity, income, etc. The interesting question in a data-rich retail setting is - who has the power to take that data and do something with it? Several years ago I was in a Target Store in Jersey City - I asked the store manager if she stocked Banana Ketchup. She was puzzled. I explained that her store served the largest concentration of Filipino Americans in North American and having the most popular Filipino condiment might be a good idea. Is retail ready to give store managers the power to use location data? The bigger the chain the bigger the challenge. Chains like armies are define by the quality and training of their non-commissioned officers not necessarily their generals.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2019

    Pets rule the retail roost

    Based on the last census we have more unmarried adult Americans than married. Many have figured out pets are better than children or spouses. Unconditional love. Cheaper. Much less subject to addictions. Very forgiving. And often very cute. How often on social media does a pet owner identify themselves as a mom or dad? Look the cross section of pet foods from vegetarian, to letting you match your meal to theirs. Look at the pet hotels that pet super stores are opening. Or the troubles food merchants are having dealing with health regulations and "emotional support" animals.

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