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: 09/19/2019

    Retailers falling short at training frontline workers

    Easiest thing to change in retail is the physical design of the store. Hardest is the operating culture. The management team that doesn't spend time on the front lines, loses. In all too many places, you find the desk farthest from the front door and that's where the person in charge sits.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    We have a 60% failure rate in retail Kiosks. The issues are clear. 1) Kool the first usage - but how about the 12th time? 2) Is it bored kid proof? 3) The depreciation schedule for fixtures for most retailers is 5 years. Is the tech going to last that long? Neiman's reported they were pulling out most of their "Smart Mirrors." They were either broken, or no one was using them outside the beauty department.
  • Posted on: 09/17/2019

    Have U.S. malls lost their sense of community?

    In other parts of the world mall operators have a better sense of cooperation with local government and the community. Malls may have libraries, schools, day care centers, government offices, even churches. I saw a mall in South Africa with a small stadium for high school sports right outside its food court. The solutions are out there - but it takes time, care and creativity to make them happen.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    Will bringing the outdoors inside stores work for J.C. Penney?

    Did Lands' End save Sears? How has Sephora inside JC worked? JC needs to work on its own brand.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2019

    Would you go to Walmart to see a doctor?

    YES. Remember that Sam Walton talked about supporting a single mother trying to raise her children. Healthcare reform is only going to happen through competition. Now if we can only get Walmart and CVS to rethink about offering banking services too.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2019

    Is it time for retailers to create a tech strategy for pop-up shops?

    Bloomingdale's 59th Street has a great pop up set up, complete with video walls. The Design Director tells me it takes less than 24 hours to do a complete turn around. It is also part of the digital transformation of the commercial brokerage business - making short term leases easy and fast.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2019

    Why is Whole Foods CEO dissing plant-based meat alternatives?

    Dr. Marion Nestle - the widely published author of food books points out that fake meat is yet another processed food with lots of unhealthy ingredients.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Kroger’s trucks roll into food deserts

    Mobile grocery has worked very well in many parts of the world. Small villages, senior housing complexes, college campuses, the list is endless. The Kroger truck might also work at farmer's markets - where the offering is non-fresh food items like soap, paper products and canned goods. It is also a way of featuring private labels. The grocery truck is an old idea ripe for reinvention.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2019

    Pfizer relies on multiple data sources for better shopper insights

    The basic market research playbook in the 21st Century is to use multiple dip sticks. Qual/quant, survey/observation, in-store/in-home/in-office. Rarely do all your sources tell you the same thing. Our skill is how we take data from multiple sources and transform it into actionable information.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    Is it time for retailers to tier up their loyalty/reward programs?

    In the modern tradeoff between time and money -- which do we choose? What if rather than discounting there were member only check-out? At a Japanese department store I visited years ago, they had a members lounge -- drinks, a place to park your husband, private bathrooms and private fashion shows. Membership was either bought, awarded based on sales volume, or if you signed up the store's branded credit card. Let's get past buy one get one free.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2019

    Can H-E-B win the autonomous delivery vehicle race in Texas?

    In Uvalde, Texas it might work. Downtown Austin? The delivery paradox is on the edge of disruption. FedEx ended its contract with Amazon for good reasons - complaints from urban dwellers about their lives being disrupted by delivery persons trying to access a building. Please remember dear readers that shopping and housing issues are intertwined. Where we live will determine how services are delivered.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2019

    Has the starting point of customer journeys moved?

    I believe retail trends and housing trends are intertwined. As a research company we often start in the home asking people questions. Open the fridge -- and ask who bought what and why. Ask the same question in the aisle you get a different answer. Take a tour of a family bathroom, or a mother's bedroom make-up station and again a different answer than in-store, online, or on the telephone. One very interesting finding in a packaging research project for a liquor company was finding out how few homes displayed the liquor bottles they owned. "Top Shelf" booze was more likely to be locked up (away from the family's teens) than displayed. One practical note: we run criminal background checks on the households we visit -- to make sure our researchers are safe.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2019

    What are the signs of a dying retail business?

    What made a good store in 2000 and what works today are a reflection of social change. Several key points -- does senior management spend time on the floor during peak hours? How much information and elbow room is being given to store managers? How is local versus chain wide being handled. How much social media is store versus chain based? How successful is an individual location is connecting to the community it serves? And most importantly -- are the employee bathrooms clean? That's where customer service starts. ;)
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    Should Simon Property Group bail out (invest in) more retail tenants?

    No investment in retail firms. Simon and other USA Malls need to transform themselves into ALLS with housing, office space, hotels and entertainment. They need to include all the tenants a family needs including grocery, gyms, doctor's offices and day care. ALLS work all over the world. Live, work, shop and recreate in the same place and drive your car occasionally. Money spent to prop up failing tenants is lost capital. The greatest asset USA malls have are the open parking lots that surround them.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    CPG companies spending more to use less packaging

    This is one of the topics in new book due out next year. In the Twentieth Century, packaging was designed to scream from the supermarket shelf -- SEE ME! In 2019, 80% of weekly purchases for consumers over the age of 35 are replacement products. Packaging for those customers can be about recycled and re-purposed material. Recognize also that our kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry spaces are very different than they were in 1960. Why can't P&G offer custom blends of Tide based on the water sample you send them? A subscription sale that comes in biodegradable bag that fits into a washable container P&G sends you with your first subscription order. Think of it: soap, coffee, milk, pasta, mustard, juice -- it all fits.

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