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    Envirosell Conference Reviews Retail Trends around the World

    American retailers put too much emphasis on stock price instead of profit, says expert Paco Underhill.

    AVENTURA, Fla. -- The Envirosell Science of Shopping 2006 conference held this month in Aventura, Fla., kicked off with an opening address by Envirosell’s founder, CEO and president Paco Underhill.

    Underhill, author of the bestselling books, Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping and The Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping, shared a whirlwind tour of global retail with attendees, pointing out that retail innovation is now coming from geographic locations where "the population is big and money is young." Among these locations are Moscow, Mexico, Dublin, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Mumbai.

    According to Underhill, American retailers put too much emphasis on stock price instead of profit and on opening doors instead of store sales. "They have been reluctant to shed underperforming locations," Underhill said. He also cited too much time spent on mergers that "have nothing to do with the customer," and said that America is "severely over-stored."

    Underhill noted that innovation and directions for growth came from retail CEOs in the past, but now come from "generals and captains," and noted the changes taking place in the market today -- deep discount retail is on the rise, shopping center use is declining, and "10 percent to 15 percent of shoppers are walking out of mass-merchandising stores emptyhanded." He also mentioned the increasing use of other channels, including thrift stores and online sources, including eBay and Craigslist, where it is now fashionable to even buy a secondhand Mercedes.

    Underhill said that technology, applied to retail, is still "in search of an application." He noted that after 20 years of promoting interactive kiosks in retail, there "are only two real winners: ATMs and airport check-in kiosks."

    As Underhill sees it, "21st century growth will come from emerging markets and is less likely to look like Europe or North America -- with new ideas in construction, craftsmanship and materials that will be completely different." Underhill urged attendees to become familiar with exciting foreign retailers with innovative concepts, including Three Minute Happiness in Japan and Daslu and etna in Brazil, and the developing retail explosion in Dubai and Asia.

    Additional sessions at the conference addressed The Evolution of the Male Shopper, Changing Channels, In-Store Signage, Best Practices in Store Planning and a C-Store Case Study that Envirosell conducted with CSNews a year ago. The conference ended with a panel on retail trends, including Jose Luis Nueno, marketing professor at Spain’s IESE business school, who presented a video case study of retailer Zara, George Whalin of San Marcos. Calif.-based Retail Management Consultants, Wendy Liebman of New York-based WSL Strategic Retail and producer of the survey "How America Shops," and Patrick Rodmell of Watt International, Toronto.

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