Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy
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The author of the international bestseller Why We Buy—praised by The New York Times as “a book that gives this underrated skill the respect it deserves”—now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about.
Paco Underhill, the Margaret Mead of shopping and author of the huge international bestseller Why We Buy, now takes us to the mall, a place every American has experienced and has an opinion about. The result is a bright, ironic, funny, and shrewd portrait of the mall—America’s gift to personal consumption, its most powerful icon of global commercial muscle, the once new and now aging national town square, the place where we convene in our leisure time.
It’s about the shopping mall as an exemplar of our commercial and social culture, the place where our young people have their first taste of social freedom and where the rest of us compare notes. Call of the Mall examines how we use the mall, what it means, why it works when it does, and why it sometimes doesn’t.
bathrooms might be somewhat important. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the critical issue for mall owners is finding ways to extend the average visit. Talk to any woman and you quickly learn how pleasant bathrooms make prolonged visits possible, while nasty toilets encourage the quick in-and-out. Not only do women use rest rooms more often than men do, but they require more once there. Is it any surprise that male mall executives might not always provide for the most pleasant breast-feeding
experience? It isn’t, but that’s one of the added functions I’m talking about, and an important one considering how happy many mothers of young children are to take advantage of a mall’s distractions. I admire any mall, department store, or other retailer that pays attention to the lowly toilet, for that is a company building goodwill. There are so few good public facilities in America that firms which provide them will stand out. If you walk the streets of New York today, there are only a few
Forty-second Street in Manhattan in the “bad old days” of Times Square. Many New Yorkers cheered when former mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani rid the district of its pornographic sleaze and overall decay and Disney-fied it for family consumption. The fetid live peepshows were replaced by The Lion King and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, making the area safe for tourists, who now flock there to enjoy a dazzling variety of wholesome fare. It really was an ugly, seamy part of town back then, and yet there was
work in every store equally well, meaning they’ve got to be somewhat generic. They no longer see the store itself as a kind of stage on which the merchandise is presented.” “It depends on which store you’re talking about, but for the most part you’re right. Back in the old days, in the 1960s and 1970s, you had big retail executives with big egos, and they sought out creative designers and hired them to come up with distinctive looks. The designers were like hired guns, and they went back and
regrets about dealing directly with the media. I am happy to talk on and off the record. New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer: The list is endless. I am particularly grateful to the business press—Business Week, Business 2.0, Fast Company, Fortune, and Fortune Small Business, all of which have been very generous to us. I talk to Women’s Wear Daily sometimes once a week, not bad for a fashion nerd. Small parts of this book have appeared in DDI, the retail