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Retail Guru Knows 'What Women Want'

Women are wealthier, more powerful and more independent than ever.

In What Women Want, Paco Underhill explains that smart businesses are adapting to accommodate women -- a group that makes up more than half of their customers, in many cases.

No business, he argues, can afford to ignore the power of women. No matter what the product in question -- cars, appliances, homes, hotels, restaurants, banks, homes, clothing -- retailers must focus on what women want.

Businesses have already made changes to reflect women's desires. Take, for example, hotel bathrooms. The shower curtains at many hotels once hung from straight rods over the bathtub. Now, you'll often find shower rods that bow out, where the curtains hang on a curved track.

But how is that about women?

"When you check into a hotel," Underhill asks NPR's Neal Conan, "are you conscious that there have been 365 strangers staying in that hotel room over the past year since you checked in?"

Men may not be, but women often are. And if you think about what gets touched, washed or wiped down in a hotel room, the shower curtain isn't likely to be on that list.

Underhill believes the concern about hygiene is something that is wired into women's systems. The bowed shower curtain is an improvement, then, because it doesn't touch you while you wash.

Hoteliers have made additional changes to accommodate women -- particularly female business travelers, who are some of the most brand conscious customers around. In addition to hygiene, another of their primary concerns is security.

"If I'm checking into the Marriott O'Hare and somebody says 'Mr. Underhill you're in room 722,' in a loud voice, I don't have a security alarm that goes off in my head." But if you're a woman, it may.

So, now, customers at check-in typically receive a small folder with a keycard, with the room number discreetly written, not delivered aloud. That, says Underhill, is a nod to the power of the female consumer, who must be understood. If "you fail her," and make her feel insecure, "she doesn't forget it."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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