retail anthropology
n. The principles and practices of anthropology applied to retail spaces and operations.
So-called retail anthropology now regularly maps the most arcane patterns of consumer behavior: which aisle number in a store seems the most alluring; what kind of overhead lighting and piped-in music is conducive to purchasing; what gimmicks lure shoppers into the most lucrative parts of the store, a fabled area known to marketers as Zone 4. Before long, the ways of the American shopper will be as codified and demystified as those of a Yanomami tribesman.
—Lawrence Osborne, “Consuming Rituals of the Suburban Tribe,” The New York Times, January 13, 2002
1996 (earliest)
Soon, however, it dawned on Paco [Underhill] that Whyte's ideas could be taken a step further — that the same techniques he used to establish why a plaza worked or didn't work could also be used to determine why a store worked or didn't work. Thus was born the field of retail anthropology.
—Malcom Gladwell, “The Science of Shopping,” The New Yorker, November 04, 1996
So the latest trend in the science of psyching out the shopper—a trend propelled by the development of new technology—is "observational research," otherwise known as "retail ethnography."
—Stephanie Simon, “Shopping with Big Brother,” Los Angeles Times, May 01, 2002
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