Archive for the ‘Susan’ Category


Group Cultural Code for Czech Republic

June 4, 2010

We started our group cultural code from puppets, goulash, cartoons, etc. Rather than figuring out the cultural code with metaphor, in the end, we came to functionality.

The functionality in fashion world is rooted in Czech people’s daily lives two decades ago. Before the revolution in 1989, under the rule of Communism, people dressed according to clothes’ practicality. Communism supports the core value of “being equal” and everything should be cheap. In other words, brands and to be good-looking are not their most important concerns during clothes purchasing, because everyone should dress according to what they need and where they work.

Men's Overall

For example, men rarely wore T-shirt and jacket in the past. However, they usually just wore overall, which is easier for them to work in the factory or farm. Also, for women, they often wore scarves, which helps to prevent dirts during working. So, before the revolution, on the one hand, Czech people didn’t have a lot of choices for clothes. On the other hand, their mindset and the culture indicated them to dress functionally and practically.

With the twenty-one years development till now, people have gained a lot of freedom for purchasing clothes and other fashion products. But it’s hard for them to change their shopping habits and mindsets immediately, especially for old generations. Most Czech people still live in small towns. It’s not that convenient to reach a lot of international brands. Also, according to the average income in Czech, a large number of people can’t really afford them. So they are loyal to local brands, markets and independent shops and functionality is still the key factor they will take into account during purchasing. In some sense, international fashion brands are just a symbolism of free market after revolution.

Everyone we’ve talked to has stressed the divide between the old generation and the new generation. Not only do these two groups of Czech people have different memories of the change in the country, but they have vastly different perceptions on fashion and shopping. The older generation is very traditional. They are loyal to local markets and shops. They don’t see the need to change their habits and don’t have an enormous desire to buy expensive fashion. The younger generation, however, is slowly but surely adapting to the new shopping experience. Hypermarkets and mega-malls are attracting more and more people as the younger Czech generation is becoming more interested in name-brand clothing. Young girls enjoy getting together with their friends and going shopping for a day, while the older generation still prefers shopping in local markets by their homes.

Sitting outside of Tesco, Lisa noticed something that contributed specifically to the culture code we chose. The Czech consumer’s process of leaving the Tesco was pretty unique. As many people exited the store, they immediately reorganized their purchases, and analyzed everything they had bought that day. We thought this routine action was really interesting because Czech people spend so much time choosing products pre-purchase, and now they were still analyzing those purchases even after they had been made. The shoppers would come out, look at their receipt, and refer back to the things that they bought one by one. One older man even stopped, took his glasses out of his case, looked over his receipt for about ten minutes, took them off, put them in the case, and then carried on with his day. This man probably brought those glasses along with him for exactly that purpose, which means that he does it every time he goes shopping. From these observations, we came up with the subject of Czechs as very price sensitive and interested in quality. Czech people will only buy something if the product’s inherent value is worth just as much, if not more, than the price that they are paying. It’s not that Czechs won’t pay a lot of money for something, but when they do, they will be sure that what they are buying is worth every crown it costs. As we learned through conversation with some of the staff at Garp, once a year, there is a huge sale for designer labels that Czech fashion magazines create special issues for. In these magazines are coupons for these sales. Czech consumers interesting in buying high-end brands will often wait all year for this sales period because it is when they will get the best deal.

It was interesting to understand Czech’s without knowing the language, but we used our resources with the English-speaking people at the agencies we visited and our assistant Honsa. Through our discussions with those people we realized a huge difference in American culture and Czech culture when it comes to brands. In the suburban America we know well it is common for people to buy a North Face just to buy a North Face. When it comes to Czech culture they care more about the price, quality and functions a jacket would perform for them. If it happens that North Face fits all the things they are looking for then so be it, but brand is not a primary part of their choices.

Czech people dress for the specific occasion they will be in. First and foremost, the weather condition and the amount of time they will be outside affects what they’re going to wear. Comfortable shoes are necessary if the walk to work is a long one. They’ll put on a coat if it’s cold, and not worry about whether or not it 100% matches their ensemble. Men don’t wear nice jackets, blazers, or shirts unless they’re going to a wedding, funeral, or other dressy occasion. Since many Czech people own cottages for weekend excursions, mountaineering clothing stores are very popular. Therefore, the ridiculously expensive pieces of clothing that don’t really serve a purpose are disregarded. This might be why there are not a lot of fashion ads. The Czech people don’t need to purchase the clothing, so they won’t appreciate the ad. They dress for a very specific, functional purpose.

Another one of the major points we observed was that practicality if very important to Czechs. Practicality goes hand in had with functionality because Czechs want to purchase clothing that is not only functional in the sense that it works best for them but also what they buy and where they shop needs to be practical and convenient for them as well. Clothes that make day-to-day life easier and comfortable are essential, since walking and public transportation are popular in the Czech Republic, residents are going to want clothes and shoes that are comfortable for walking and traveling. It doesn’t make sense for Czechs to wear some of the trends that may be popular in other parts of the world because they are not practical for them.

However, just because the Czechs may not be following all the latest cutting edge fashions and trends, it doesn’t mean that they are not concerned with how they look. Czechs still want to look good and look put together. While we observed that Czechs walking down the street may not have been as chic and sophisticated as the trend setters in London, they still looked like they thought about what they put on in the morning. The main point to take away about Czechs and looking good is that they go about looking stylish in a different way than other cultures. Czechs are not going to follow trends that are not practical and functional in their day-to-day lives activities. Also they are not going to splurge on trends that are overly expensive either because spending a large portion of their income is not practical either. Czechs are concerned with being practical in their clothing choices but also concerned with looking and feeling good about what they wear.

Overall, our cultural code for fashion in Czech is functionality. In some sense, the role of functionality also explains why there is almost no fashion advertising in Czech Republic. In this small market, for Czech people, fashion doesn’t stands for brands, but functions.


price price price

June 4, 2010

My week in Prague is almost over.  Hard to believe that three weeks has flown by and my summer class is almost over. I realized before coming that Prague was more “old school” if you will, than London, but I didn’t realize how different these city centre’s really are.

In earlier posts I talked about Londoners shopping habits.  Specifically many of them  have disposable income and having the ability to find something in a store and buy it without looking at the price tag.  For Czech’s this is unheard of…unless you’re on Parizsha Street which is the worst representation of an average Czech shopper.

The biggest distinction between these two cultures is the way they value price and the product they are purchasing.  I went to the Palladium the other day, which is a very large mall that I would call a mini Mall of America.  It had four floors and just about every store you could think of, but still smaller in size than MOA.  As I followed shoppers around in the most sneaky way i could I tried to understand their connection to the products as they browsed, who they were shopping with, and how they shopped.  I wanted to understand Czech shoppers.

From my observations I found that younger people did not like to shop alone, but women that look like they are of the age to have a family in kids loved shopping alone.  It was a social experience for younger people and for the moms it was a day out on the town by themselves.

Another thing I noticed was people took a longer amount of time than Londoners when looking at a piece.  Say for instance a woman was looking at a dress.  She would touch it, take it off the rack, hold it up, and look at the price.  Price was the biggest thing I noticed because everyone looked at it.  This was not the case in London at all.

The average Czech persons annual salary is $12-15,000 which makes sense as to why these shoppers take note in how much the product is that they are purchasing.   They make choices based on price, while still making sure it is a functional part of their existing wardrobe.

Some may say the Palladium is full of tourists and that they are not Czech people, but from our agency visits this week I gathered that coming to Prague is a big shopping trip for a lot of Czech people that live outside the city centre.  I’m sure I observed some tourists, but there were many differences in my findings from London.

Goodbye Prague 😦 you have been lovely.  Next blog will conclude our group’s culture code of Czech shoppers.


ethnography training round 2

June 3, 2010

Parizsha Street is Prague’s Rodeo Drive.  Prada, Hermes, Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste and an Aston Martin parked on the street should give you a mental picture.

Bridget and I took two walks down this street. Round 1 Bridget walked and closed her eyes and told me all the things she could smell.  With Bridget’s plugged nose from being sick it was a little tough.  Round 2 I walked with my eyes closed and said everything I could hear.

It was an interesting exercise to isolate our senses…especially the senses that we have been ignoring.  It is so easy to tell someone what you see, but really you are missing a lot of other details that could possibly be essential to the overall picture.

Walking down Parizsha Street in a normal fashion I may not have payed attention to the sound the silverware made when someone layed them back on their plate, or the strong perfume smell you instantly smell when you walk past a fashion boutique.  There was construction going on and each job created its own sound.

I wish we would have done this exercise at the beggining of the trip, but even so I realized that i was missing out on a lot of senses.  It was a good reminder of details I had been skipping over. The smells, sounds, and feelings that tap into the emotional connection with a location are key to understanding deep into a customers thought process.  I’m excited to apply this method when getting to know JC Penny and its customers for my senior capstone class next year.  I think this will help me get a feel for the customer and in turn create better advertisements.



ethnography training #1

June 3, 2010

Tesco! Tesco is great.  Frankly I wish we had Tesco in the states, well at least Tesco Express.  Tesco can range from small stores like walgreens all the way to a super Walmart size.  Some are grab and go type places and others you could find anything you possibly need.  I lived on Tesco Express in London.  What I would call “gas station food” they had the widest selection I had ever seen and it was so delicious.

While visiting Tesco in Prague it was located within a mall.  Jean challeneged us to get beyond our vision and use our other senses to get a grasp on a location.  We had to find 30 things in 30 minutes and only 15 could be sight related. 

Smell- In a grocery store smells are very relevant.  Fish, freezerburn, bread, perfume and flowers.  This is the sense that I forget about the most, but then I realized smell can have a huge emotional impact on customers.  The smell of pumpkin pie makes most people think of Thanksgiving and family.  Connections like that may help connect consumers to products.

Touch- I realized that I touch things I am considering buying or highly examining.  The longest thing I touched was a bottle of sparkling juice that had Disney princess’ on it.  I was trying to convince myself that I had room for this beautiful, smooth, cold bottle that would go well in my glass bottle collection I have on my bar.  Now I’m going to watch other customers as they touch things in a store to see if that plays into the correlation that they want to buy something.

Sound- This one was my favorite because I zoned in on my paper and just listened.  It was amazing how many sounds exist in an enviornment from the chatter between customers, the wheels squeeking on a card, the sound of poppy seeds scratching on metal from the baker cleaning out the bread container or even the hum of the coolers where cold things are kept.  I developed a stronger connection in a way that almost made the store feel alive. It was it’s own musical.

I need to challenge myself to dig deeper for details.  Small things may be important in the end and the more content I gather the easier finding those culture codes may be.  It’s like brainstorming.  The bigger the pool of ideas the easier it is to either pick one, or be inspired by one to go in another direction.


A better ethnographer,



Group Culture Code Wrap-Up of the UK

June 1, 2010

Yiting: Mixture

The mixture of fashion world in UK reflects its variety of products, brands, shopping environments, consumers’ different attitudes toward fashion, as well as their shopping and consumption habits. British people are quite comfortable to embrace various trends and styles in fashion. Even though they might not like all of them, they choose to embrace them rather than judge. So in some sense, it is the openness of the embracing in fashion that make British people to dress and do shopping more confidently. Moreover, they enjoy the re-designing their own pieces with out-of-dated fabrics and accessories.

Besides, as an island country in Europe, in UK, the mixed culture originated from the immigrants and tourists from different cultures drives brands in fashion industry to mix the British vintage styles with the modern trends, which plays a vital role in reaching more audiences.  Moreover, in UK, there’s a wide choices of shopping environment, including high-end department store, middle-level stores and flea market. Especially, the flea market provides more opportunities for the communication between salesperson and consumers about products and brands.

Lauren: Individuality

My culture code for the UK is individuality. While there were drastic differences between Manchester and London in styles, trends, and shopping habits I felt that both cultures placed a heavy weight on the individual  and being true to who you are. In London people followed the trends but added their own twists to the trends. They weren’t afraid to mix it up and try something new and different. Also people stayed true to themselves regardless of class. People that could afford nice things would defiantly splurge and buy high end designers and brands. Even those in the lower and middle class stayed true to themselves. You didn’t see any lower cost brands trying to emulate higher end brands. The stores themselves also stayed true to what they were and were all very individual and unique. Each store gave the shopper an individual shopping experience different from other stores and brands. I think in both London and Manchester individuality was an important quality to the people, fashions, and stores.

Suz: Confidence

If I could describe UK Fashion in one word I would pick confidence. There is a vibrant blend of colors and styles represented in London fashion.  I saw confidence in women 40+ shopping in the same stores I like to shop in, and from what I gathered by the numbers, shopping for themselves.

There was a confidence in the pieces that people chose to put together.  As mixed as they may have been, they always looked great because they wore their outfits with confidence.  I have never seen a guy with a zip up hoodie under a blazer…but it looked great.

The other strong notion of confidence i saw was in terms of body.  There was a sense of beauty within each person because I saw people rocking outfits that showed off their curves.  There was a comfort with their own bodies that you don’t normally see and it made them even more beautiful.

There were subtle hints towards the fact that people chose their outfits because they liked what they were wearing…and if they were the only people that agreed with it, it was ok.  I’m not saying people were poorly dressed because that is exact opposite of what we saw in London.

We saw a warped sophistication, with a twist of their own style, and with that I say Londoners are a confident bunch.
Lisa: Contrast

My individual culture code for UK fashion was contrast. The two most common types of contrast were between mixing old vintage with new and mixing different prints and textures of fabrics together. One way that the Brits differ from consumers in the US is that they have a lot less room to put their “stuff”. Accessories are a great way to tie two contrasting pieces together, and they play a huge role in UK fashion. It is not a part of UK culture to accumulate huge amounts of clothing generally, or large amounts of anything for that matter. Think about the amount of money people spend hiring organizers for their closets or buying storage units for their extra things; this is not a phenomenon that typically exists in the UK. For example, instead of buying a whole new spring wardrobe, someone from the UK would go out shopping looking for a few newer, trendy things that would go with something that they already have in an interesting way, or maybe that person would go to a thrift store looking for these pieces.

Here are a few examples I found of contrasts in UK fashoion:

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“That is the key of this collection, being yourself. Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live. ” – Gianni Versace

Jeannie: Embracing and Loving the Unique

London was a great place to observe styles and trends because almost everyone had their own distinct style. While there were some patterns, I noticed that everyone had their own spin on the idea. Uniqueness is key. The mannequins in the store windows featured layers and mixtures of clothing, the stores themselves had wide varieties of trends, and I never saw an outfit repeated twice. Even if someone was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, they would add a piece of flair (brightly colored shoes, an interesting necklace, a colorful bag, etc) to spice up the outfit. Shoppers only carried a few items around with them and purchased what was true to their style because they were comfortable and true to their own unique fashion sense. They didn’t shop in large, busy groups – they were calm, collected, and accustomed to shopping for pieces that they wanted. London shoppers embrace not only their own unique style, but also everyone else’s.

Group Culture Code: Gin Martini

After brainstorming and bouncing ideas around, our group decided that the culture code for fashion in UK was Gin Martini. We were inspired by our visit to Vinopolis. We learned about Bombay Sapphire Gin and how London Gin, mixology, and bar tending were such a huge part of London’s culture and history. Therefore, we believe that Martini is the perfect cultural code to reflect fashion in the UK for several reasons.

The stores, consumers’ shopping behaviors and attitudes towards products, and the dressing styles in UK possess Martini’s most important features: the versatility, variety and uniqueness. A Martini can be customized and made in a million different ways but always begins with the basics of gin, vermouth, and shake or stir in some ice.

For example, the fashion market in London could be compared to a martini up with any added flavor such as a pom-pom martini, choco-tini, blueberry martini, etc. These martinis are specialized and have some added flare to a classic drink. Just as Londoners try to add their own spin to classic looks and trends. Martini is a very trendy drink and people in London were all pretty trendy and cutting edge with their looks. Not only were the people trendy, but the stores were trendy as well. The stores are like the glass of martini, creative, changeable and various. Martini is trying to find the best fit glass to reflect and strengthen its personality, which is the same with the shopping environment in UK. The cheaper vintage stores also aimed to be “the place to be.”

With Manchester on the other hand, one could say it is more of a dirty gin martini on the rocks. This drink is the same basic cocktail without the extra garnishes, flavors, and fancy glass. This drink looks pretty generic and yet when you taste it, there is a powerful kick with the potent olive juice. Manchester is a working-class city. The people, fashions, and stores there are like dirty gin martini as well. They are nearly as upscale and trendy as those in London. People prefer to buy what is comfortable and what they like and keep it traditional.  However what the fashion lacks, they made up for it with spunky personalities and sense of humor. Ever the stores in Manchester are not what they appear to be. For instance, Affleck’s Palace looks like a big warehouse. But once you are inside the store, you will have an impressive memory of the unexpected interior and shopping experience there because of its uniqueness with vintage, goth, and trendy clothing along with eclectic accessories and gifts.

More generally, the experience of shopping in London is very similar to the experience of enjoying a martini. Going out for a martini is a calm and sophisticated social experience where a person can enjoy the company of their friends. It is a special event and a memorable one as well. Londoners go shopping for the social experience.


London v Manchester

May 28, 2010

London v Manchester = Chicago v Des Moines.

Sadly my time in the UK is done …for now, but after leaving I found some connections to my midwestern roots.

These cities did not have a direct correlation, but many similar attributes that will let my home readers understand my observations.

London & Chicago

London was full of vibrance.  Personal Expression is a staple that Londoners live by.  They love inividuality and creating outfits that are extremely eclectic.   High end fashion was as easy to find as a tourist, but not all Londoners were high end shoppers. 

What I loved most about London was the sophistication that everyone applied to the clothes they wore outside the house.   They took time and thought into creating their personalized outfits that were unique to them.  They made Americans or possibly just Drake students look like slobs.  My favorite was the young guy with a zip up hoodie and a blazer…and rocked it.  During the day young ladies looked like they could go out. 

Similarily Chicago or the tourist trap of Michigan Avenue reminded me of London.  Streetlights, People, walking down the boulevard.  Sorry, big Journey fan. 🙂 Chicago reminded me of London.  Even though my last visit to Chicago was in winter I found that people cared about what they were wearing.  Girls loved dressing up a cute jacket with a scarf and nice boots.  The jackets may mainly have been black but this need for self expression and individuality rang true in Chicago as well as London.  Trendy, but a true representation of themselves through their clothing.

In both cities their is a sense of identity in the outfits they choose to wear. 

I had the luxury of getting out of London to visit another town north of London, Manchester.  I felt like Manchester was smaller than Des Moines, but that is still up for debate with my fellow Drake travelers.  Manchester was a working class town and I would say lower income.  Londoners were more likely to have a disposable income.  After talking with a 30 something woman at a pub in Manchester I understood that Manchester was full of regular people, which is what I would say about people from Des Moines.   They are very nice people that work for their money, but arn’t counting pennies. 

Day fashion in Manchester was mainly business people going out for lunch, but as night came around it turned into the day fashions we saw in London.  There was a mix between average size town and people that wanted to pretend they were from the city.  Overall I found that Manchester’s style was mellowed out in comparison to London.  Many more average Joe’s in this town. 

Des Moines I would say follows along the same path.  You won’t see many young people eating on Court Avenue mid day, but mainly people in business clothes grabbing a bite to eat on their lunch break.  Come night time you will find a completly different style and demographic as it turns into the trendy bar area that twenty somethings gather for a few too many drinks with their friends.

London & Chicago….Manchester & Des Moines.  Great parallels to explain the difference in people occupying their cities.  Comparable differences in the standard of living in each town which correlates to the amount they would spend out shopping.  In magazines you see articles with outfits that you can either spend or save.  Londoners and Chicagans would spend and the people from Manchester and Des Moines would save.  They are all wearing similar styles, but choosing different ways of getting those looks.

Good Bye UK! I will miss you and your delicious Tom Collins’

Off to Prague!

Cheers!  Susan


shoe shoppers

May 24, 2010

After my converse post I was curious to understand how people act when they are shopping for shoes.  Today I visited Nike, Asics, Size?, Topshop, Converse and Asda.  Six stores, but some very similar shopping trends.

Nike was amazing.  It was the biggest Nike I had ever been in, but the best customer service I have ever had in a shoe store.  Similar to Apple they had handheld gadgets.  I asked for a shoe, he scanned the barcode to make sure my size was in stock and he ordered it from the backroom.  It came down on a shoe elevator and within three minutes of my request I was trying on a pair of shoes.

Besides my personal experience I watched as others browsed.  Shopping for shoes is a hands on experience.  Customers loved to pick up the shoes, look at all angles, bend them, smell them to make sure they were of quality.  Just as London was eclectic, Nike shoppers were very different as well.  Athletic, casual, comfort driven people that still appreciated style.  I asked a store worker why he liked working there and his response was because he loved living in London.

Asics was impressive because it was so personal.  A much smaller store than Nike, asics wanted to get to know there customer.  I spoke with a lady that had just been measured for a shoe and asked her why she came in today.  She said she had been in before and loved how they helped her.  She had just ran on a treadmill where they looked at how she ran.  They measured her arches, looked at her knee alignment and suggested a shoe that was best for her foot structure as well as the way her body contacted the ground.  This was an obvious sign of loyalty because Asics was dedicated to their consumers experience with their product.  The measuring session cost 5 £ and you had to commit to purchasing a shoe from them.

Size? was a little hipster store.  Shoes were mainly casual and very colorful.  Along with Nike the customers were very curious and wanted to know what they were buying.  They picked them up and looked at them, felt them, bent them, walked around in them, wanting to know if it was right for them.  At this store I really noticed a gender difference in shopping.  Men did not mind looking for shoes on their own where as women were very rarely alone.  Women loved conversing with friends and getting their opinion before their purchase.

Topshop was a madhouse.  Shoes, Shoes, Shoes.  Since the shoe area was so large I was curious on their customer service as well.  I asked for a size and he went off into the shoe jungle to find it.  I didn’t feel like I could browse because I wasn’t sure he would be able to find me if I moved too far from where I had requested a size.  He returned ten minutes later and felt so terrible that he couldn’t find my size.

Another area with cheaper shoes had multiple sizes hanging and here is where I noticed again the customers interpretation with the product and the people they were shopping with.  I saw no women shopping alone.  They were all with at least one other person and again picking up the shoes looking at them in many angles and since it was so convienent many were trying them on.  Lot’s of converstions included: What do you think? Should I get them? As if they needed someone else to help convince them to make a purchase.

Converse.  The biggest thing I noticed here was loyalty and casual shopping.  No one seemed to be in a rush.  They seemed to be enjoying their experience at the store.  The thing I thought was cool was about half the people that I identified as shoppers were already wearing converse of their own.  This brand loyalty reminded me of all the people I have seen on the Tube and in the streets wearing Converse.  It seems to me that people buy one pair and keep coming back for more!


This was the smallest shoe area I went to today.  Cheaper shoes, but still trendy.  These Londoners are trendy even when they are unable to spend big dollars.  Once again there was a personal connection between the shoppers and the product.  They all wanted to feel them.  After the visual appeal, the feel of the product seems to be the next thing to take into consideration.  It was nice to see that my observations were similar reguardless the price.

To wrap up my experience with London shoe shoppers they are a confident bunch that want quality shoes to fit their lifestyles.  They are not impulse buyers, but rather careful.  I link to this to the price of shoes and the length of their life in the closet.  People know that this is a lengthy piece to their wardrobe and want to make sure it’s worth their money.  To make sure they take their time when buying, and they look to their friends for advice.



Off to Manchester in the morning! Goodbye London…I can’t wait to see you again.