On a recent shopping trip, my daughter and I discovered that our favorite anchor retailers have done away with certain sections of the women’s clothing department, and chosen to instead merge all previous sections into an entire floor of woman’s clothing chaos. We spent thirty minutes wandering around, searching, and then gave up and went to a smaller store that could be more easily navigated.
I understand what store executives are trying to accomplish. By merging all the departments together, they hope shoppers will look farther and wider, expand their vision, and theoretically purchase more, or spend more money on higher-end clothing items.
On paper it makes sense. But in reality, there are problems with the logic.
People are different. They just are. In size, shape, tastes, needs, desires, color-choices, and a million other important ways. Dividing the store into sections according to size, occasion, and style makes shopping easier on consumers.
For instance, had Dillards not done away with the juniors department, I most likely would have paid more for my daughter’s shorts, because I could use my store card, and also because the bigger stores guarantee a quality that will last. They stand by their products.
Ahem. If you can find them. Since I couldn’t, we chose to shop elsewhere. I still bought shorts for my daughter. But we got them in a store that was easier to navigate.
The same thing can be said for booksellers dividing books by genre, subject, author, purpose. It helps people find what they want faster. (And in today’s world, we want everything fast.) If I’m looking for a cupcake recipe book, I don’t want to search through the fiction section to find it. Or the self-help section. Or the computer section. I want to go straight to the cooking section and browse the stock there.
Dividing by section doesn’t prevent people from shopping widely, it helps them find what they want faster, allowing more time for shopping in other areas of interest.
Maybe this is why agents and publishers are so specific about what they’re looking for. It thins out the manuscripts, narrows down the choices, makes their jobs easier. Querying, like shopping, is all about researching your target audience or consumer, and hitting the right mark.
In a world rife with chaos, do you think it’s comforting to shop in places that have some semblance of order? Or do you prefer to search for your treasure like a needle in a haystack? (I know some people do, so if you’re reading, speak up!)