During a trip to Italy I took advantage of the situation to practise my observation skills..I didn’t have to make a big effort to think like a traveller, I WAS a traveller! The shops I tested my attention on were: a miscellaneous rubber products shop, a photo printing shop, a leather-‐products shop, a collectionist one, a gift/design shop and a kebab seller. I noticed the first shop while wandering around, I didn’t need any rubber products, but the shop window drew me closer because there were so many different products that it felt like one of those child books where you have to find Waldo (or his equivalent) among a myriad of objects.
The personnel was nice and the whole shop had some sort of vintage vibe, however, it was subtle rather than obvious, and I think they could take more advantage of it, given the number of people looking for vintage items. For example, since all the object were pretty random, they could use Ikea’s strategy to display “scenes” to connect the dots and help people visualize how they could use such products in real life. The photo printing shop was a bit puzzling: the sign outside was very standard and not appealing at all, however the owner made somewhat of an effort to personalize the inner part, aligning it in part with the emotional/personal aspect of printing photos. As it can be seen, there were (of course) pictures, a bonsai, an old table and a place to sit. The overall atmosphere was comfortable, although somehow dull.
Once again, I think that with a small decorative effort, such as a different sign, a curtain at the entrance, some colors on the walls, people would be much more likely to be drawn in the shop.
The experience at the leather & bags shop was less pleasant. Everything in that shop sent signals of stiffness and formality. The door was closed and the personnel was really unhelpful. The place was clean but everything was in its place, with items exposed and organized by color or category, nothing like the joyful mess of the first shop.
The collectionist shop was a gem, the shop window unassuming displayed few, carefully selected items, the window itself was engraved and old looking. Inside, an even better surprise was waiting. The owner was happy to talk about the stories behind the products he sold and I had a great time. I even bought something although I didn’t have the intention to do so. My suggestion for the owner would be to capitalize on his people skills, which didn’t emerge at all from the shop external appearance. He could simply write “come inside and learn the incredible story behind this piece of jewellry and the curious passers-‐by would come in to satisfy their curiosity, probably purchasing something on their way out.
The gift shop was once again very different from the other shops: loud music was playing, bright colors were everywhere, unusual and shiny products were dished out on the tables like design objects, and the shop was CROWDED. Most people had clearly entered just to look around and because they liked the place or were curious about the strange products (dollar printed toilet paper, extremely large phones, toasters that could impress funny messages on bread slices etc. The problem for this shop it seemed to me that was that although there was a lot of client passage, the vast majority would leave the shop empty handed. One of the possible ways to reduce this phenomenon would have been to place the cashier near the exit and some impulse products next to it (all products were instead quite expensive). As for the kebab shop, I don’t know how well known are they in other countries, but in Germany and, apparently, Italy, they are very popular and basically identical one to another. Unfortunately a common feature is that they look not exactly clean, dull, and not very welcoming. The one I visited had white tiles, a neon sign (inside) very strong odour, partly from the food, and few stools in front of a shelf to eat on. I understand that this way client rotation is incentivated, but at the end of the day kebab is used only as cheap/messy food, while it could have a much stronger cultural connotation if the shops integrated their points of sale with their original cultural traits, as almost any ethnic foos seller has done everywhere, making “going to eat Indian(/Chinese/Italian)” progressively less about the food and more about the experience.