The name of retail expert Paco Underhill was batted about at the recent Virginia Main Street toolkit. He’s the fellow who puts a lot of time into considering things like Why We Buy and The Call of the Mall, respectively his 2000 and 2004 treatises on The Science of Shopping and The Geography of Shopping. Surely there are lots of good lessons for downtown districts in these two volumes.
His newest advice is at once gender specific and pretty universal. What Women Want: The Global Marketplace Turns Female Friendly, according to a Slate review by Seth Stevenson, offers less insight than the previous books but its specific tips on appealing to women might make shopping a better experience for all. Read the first pages here.
Consider the basics he presents in terms of your district: Cleanliness, Control, Safety, and Considerateness. Who wouldn’t want things like clean restrooms, movable cafe chairs, a grafitti-free environment, and courteous service? Do these mean more to women than men? Read the book for Mr. Underhill’s perspective. Or just go ahead and make your district safe and clean. Give good service and let your visitors take some ownership of the space.
It might work out that, as it did with many of the improvements mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, catering to one part of society can improve places for all of us. And who’s to argue with that?