DDi - August 2012 - (Page 64)
64 | Shopping with Paco
he Holland Tunnel connects New Jersey to Lower Manhattan. When it opened in 1927, it transformed the relationship between the two locations. It also is a rare edifice in that it is not named after a public figure, but instead after the engineer that made the tunnel possible—Clifford M. Holland. My mother recalls driving from her home in Summit, N.J., just to take a ride through what was then a new modern breakthrough. Her heart raced as she and her father sped through the tunnel, thinking of the mighty river above her head. Some 80-plus years later, we have no thought of the river above us; most of us have some vague feeling of claustrophobia, and if our air conditioning isn’t working, a sense of the exhaust flumes outside our car window. It is just another dirty tunnel. So, it’s easy to forget that bridges and tunnels make magical connections, often putting disparate communities in closer contact than they may be comfortable with. On one side of the Holland tunnel are Jersey City and Hoboken, two longtime union communities that have faced the growing tide of gentrification. Hoboken pioneers are often refugees from high Manhattan rents and condo costs. In a broad swipe, the town is white, educated and artistic. Jersey City also is gentrifying, but at a slower rate. Its resident base is larger and more ethnic. Manila Avenue cuts north to south, close to the river—this section represents the heart of the large healthcare-focused Philippino community that supplied local hospitals with nurses and well-trained technicians. Indians are well represented, too (the local cineplex regularly shows Bollywood features as the population explodes). Townhouses surrounding elegant urban parks are home to multigenerational Latino families. Along the Jersey side of the Hudson River is a string of new high-rises with magnificent views of Gotham on the other side, for anyone who has the money to buy them. The office building developments house the back offices of the financial community, whose migration from Lower Manhattan was accelerated by 9/11 and the lure of state subsidies, lower taxes and cheaper real estate. This interesting cultural medley represents perhaps what Downtown Manhattan used to be. On the other side of the tunnel is today’s Manhattan: Tribeca, SoHo and the West Village, home to some of the priciest urban living in North America. There, a simple one-bedroom home can cost five times as much as a similarly sized apartment less than two miles away. The Tribeca Film Festival, tony Bleecker Street and the expansive art galleries and luxury lofts of SoHo are some of the more famous features of this chic neighborhood. The two worlds could not be more different. Atop the Holland Tunnel on the Jersey side is a Target superstore—literally on top of it. For all the weekend commuters fleeing the city for their Jersey weekend homes, it is potentially the first and last stop outside Manhattan. The first trip as an effete Manhattanite to “My Target” is with treasured excitement. “I’ll get all my commodity purchasing done,” we think. “No more wasting money at Gourmet Garage and overpriced Duane Reade!” And then we realize all the things we can’t find, or that don’t make sense in the superstore’s layout. No NYC-mandated trash bags are available, and neither are paper towels and toilet paper in units less than 12 for our tiny Manhattan pantries. No light bulbs in the sizes we’re looking for. Confusing adjacencies—for instance, the olive oil is in two different aisles; one in domestic oils, the other in imported. What is the difference, and why the separation? As
customers, we can’t seem to find what we need. So, we are forced to buy these commodities at the very expensive Manhattan stores we were trying to avoid. My Asian and Latino colleagues complain about both that Target and the Target in Spanish Harlem, and I’m not surprised; both stores seem to have no sense of the customer base they serve. Yes, there is some Spanish-language signage, but many of the key staples are missing. The contrast between these Target locations and the Walmart supercenter in the suburbs of Toronto could not be more distinct. The Canadian Walmart store has a large Halal meat department, a broad assortment of Asian vegetables and a condiment and spice section stocking everything from banana ketchup (the Philippines) to Penang Sauce (Thailand). The dairy case has a complete selection of tofu. Very specific demographics of the community are being served. The Canadian store is clearly making an attempt to capture the loyalty of the customers in its trade area.
Retail in North America is getting better at having good “boots on the ground”—understanding the true factors that influence a customer’s purchase decision.
Our ability to process local census data and run market research projects on a store-by-store basis can fine-tune the assortment to improve sales naturally, and is a better and healthier way of increasing same-store sales than resorting to slash-and-burn discounting. It’s better for the brand, for the bottom line and for the customer.
—Paco Underhill is the founder of Envirosell and author of the books “Why We Buy,” “Call of the Mall” and “What Women Want.” He shares his retail and consumer insights with DDI in a bi-issue column.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of DDi - August 2012
DDi - August 2012
From the Editor
From the Show Director
Total Wine & More
Visual Super Section
DDI Student Window Challenge
Store Windows Showcase
Shopping with Paco
DDi - August 2012