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Editor's Corner: Store Consciousness (pun intended)

Furniture World Magazine

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Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn wrote that “when we understand how our mind works, our practice becomes easy.”

He was referring to mindfulness practice. But if you are a furniture retailer who spends more time thinking about your customers’ minds than your own, you still might find Nhat Hahn’s ideas about the psychology of decision-making interesting.

In his view, each individual possesses something called store consciousness that stores information gathered over a lifetime (and before that) from lots of sources. It then processes that information. He observed that, “our sense of beauty, our sense of liking or disliking, has been decided very certainly and very discreetly on the level of store consciousness.” Store consciousness functions without input from the mind or rational decision making. “It can do a lot of planning; it can make a lot of decisions without you knowing about it.”

In the world of retail, there’s a different type of ‘store’ consciousness owners and managers can cultivate.

The furniture buying public believes that their decision-making processes are rational. Nhat Hahn said that this is an illusion. Economists who study behavioral economics agree. Nobel prize winning economist Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein noted that “Small and apparently insignificant details can have major impacts on people’s behavior.”

Because people believe they are rational actors, they need retailers to provide information for their minds to consider, such as, price, availability and quality features. But customer decision-making is more often based on those “apparently insignificant details” Thaler and Cass wrote about.

To incorporate subtle brand impressions that interact with your targeted customers’ store consciousness is a project that requires sweating the details about how customers make decisions at every retail touch point.

There are several articles in this edition of Furniture World that address, directly or indirectly, how customer decision-making happens.

Check out how Julia Calabrese, ASID, Global Design Manager, Ford Motor Company approaches design from the perspective of anthropology, psychology and neurology. Beckey Waldrop of Miller Waldrop furniture talks about left brain-right brain approaches to buying. There’s lots more from David McMahon, David Benbow, Scott Morris, Gordon Hecht, Jennifer Magee and the Comeaux family at AFD Furniture that just may help your retail practice to become more mindful and satisfying.


Russell Bienenstock is Editor-in-Chief of Furniture World Magazine, founded 1870. Comments can be directed to him at editor@furninfo.com.