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: 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.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2019

    Does new retail need a new prototype?

    My company was founded in 1986 as a testing agency for prototype stores. 33 years later it is still 35% of our work. 46 countries and almost half of the Fortune 100 list later -- retail is the dipstick of social change. What made a good store in 2005 and what makes a good one today are different -- those differences are a reflection of the changes in us. Five issues. 1) Our visual language continues to evolve faster than our written or spoke word. What we see whether in-store, on-line is different. 2) The status of women, retail's key customer continues to change. We used to sell them clothing, food and cosmetics. Today they are key buyers of everything. 3) Time is what is driving customers to e-commerce. How do we understand time? Again, from in-store to online. 4) What is local and what is global. The same store in Albany New York, Union Square San Francisco, and London England -- all have differences. 5) In 2019 we need to cater to new money -- which means we have to educate before we sell. Prototyping, whether in the cyber or physical world, is about the meeting of art and science. NEW MERCHANTS and OLD MERCHANTS need smarter and more informed design.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2019

    What will it take to make department stores relevant again?

    Selfridge's, Bon Marche, Ginza 6 - all good examples of off-shore department stores that have focused on shopping tourism and the off-shore buyer. Store tours. Informed greeters. Global merchandising. Menus in a range of languages. Clear and easy to use personal shopping services. Deals with local hotels - shop and merchandise delivered to your hotel room. Online services that connect to your hotel. Clear policies on tax free shopping.
  • Posted on: 03/11/2019

    Will other cities follow Philly in banning cashless stores?

    Never in human history have we had more cash in circulation. Our world has parallel white, grey and black economies - which is why government statistics are so suspect. For banks and merchants banning cash eliminates labor cost, but ask any small contractor for a bid and you get two prices - the check price and the cash price - which is lower? Going cashless may work in the Nordic world, but for the time being in Philly and Detroit ...
  • Posted on: 03/08/2019

    Will new Scan & Go tech turbocharge Sam’s checkouts?

    Scan tech has been part of the European Grocery scene for more than a decade. The incentive is both to reduce labor cost and speed check-out. For Sam's, the first customer will probably be the small business contractor/buyer who is in the store weekly. Training them to use the system makes sense. The broader consumer market is harder, especially at Club stores where store visits are not weekly. How much will that customer retain in between visits? US grocers are uncomfortable also because scan tech reduces impulse purchases at check-out -- candy and magazines -- which are high margin items. But yes. Pick up your cart, set up your bags. Place your purse and kid in cart seat. Pick up a scanner. Weigh the cart with kid/bags/pocketbook. Shop -- the scanner records the product, price and weight. Ready to leave? Weigh your cart again. If it checks out at the right weight -- scan your credit card and leave....
  • Posted on: 03/06/2019

    Will Kohl’s deal with Planet Fitness make its rivals sweat?

    Landlords across the world are willing to write the right deals for traffic drivers. Malls in Asia and Africa have gyms, day care centers, libraries and schools as tenants. This partnership has limitations. Gyms tend to get the peak business at the start and end of the day - is Kohl's open at 7 a.m., or at 7 p.m.? Much of the routine traffic is in and out. What's important is that Kohl's target customer is active, healthy and affluent enough to have a gym membership. The key is, how do Kohl's and the gym cross merchandise their adjacency?
  • Posted on: 03/05/2019

    Sexy isn’t selling anymore for Victoria’s Secret

    Based on thirty years of research, women's underwear comes in three forms:
    1. Honeymoon wear, which invites help to take it off - VS has surfed on this one.
    2. What she wears on the inside, to make what she wears on the outside look its best.
    3. What she wears to be comfortable, whether working out, or working, or just living.
    The most money is in number 3. Other brands from Aerie to Lulu have focused on 2/3 and they are doing just fine. The new sexy is about being healthy and comfortable.
  • Posted on: 02/27/2019

    Walmart says ‘goodbye’ to greeters and ‘hello’ to controversy

    The concept of the greeter in big boxes was rooted in loss prevention. Shoplifting comes in three forms. First is the pro who walks in the store with the intention of stealing. Second is the employee who finds a way to slip something out the side, or back door. The third is the person who gets tempted in the store to slip something in their pocket. Walmart figured out that if you are greeted at the doorway by a senior, or handicapped person, you are recognized and thus are much less likely to steal. in 2019, maybe the math has changed....
  • Posted on: 02/26/2019

    Will Walmart’s Baby Savings Day grow up to be a big retailing deal?

    Watson's the Hong Kong Drug chain has a store for mothers and babies. In Brazil there is a store for allergy sufferers. All based on the idea of facilitating both the sale and the relationship. Walmart could curate a baby/mothers department bringing together clothes, diapers, formula, strollers -- everything in the store for babies -- and call it a Walmart Baby Savings Center. Tie it to and you might have a monster. The challenge is how do we curate the store for the eye and pocketbook of the shopper, not the convenience of the buyer.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    Tide to roll out laundry cleaning service nationwide

    The latest washing machines wash clothes in ionized bubbles - very little water and no soap. Across much of Asia - the washer and dryer are the same machine. In Brazil some hotel rooms come with small washing machines - too small for sheets and towels, but perfect for one outfit. The laundry is ripe for change -- but is the typical middle class family earning $59,000 going to outsource their cleaning? Yes in some cities and wealthy suburbs. Near-term P&G needs to offer custom blends. Send them a water sample, the kind of machine you are using, and a profile of your washing habits. P&G signs you up and ships or has you pick up your blend. Long-term the technology of the washing machine is going to change.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2019

    What’s holding back end-to-end inventory visibility?

    Starting in the last recession we noted an increase in what we called "stuffing." The shopper in a big box store puts something in their cart, moves to a different section finds something they like better and takes an item out of their cart and discards it in a "foreign" section. Store managers struggling to control labor costs can only clean up messy stores periodically. Thus an item is not sold, inventory shows it's on the floor -- it's just in the wrong place. We are looking for a better union of store, shelf, and package.
  • Posted on: 02/22/2019

    Will the ‘c’ in c-stores soon stand for cannabis?

    The cannabis industry needs some basic ground rules, like tobacco and alcohol. The range of forms recreational pot now comes in is dangerous for children and teens, much less the rest of us. The c-store may distribute the medicinal forms — but recreational cannabis will need more careful control.

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