The Butt-brush Factor & Proxemics

Our company spends a lot of time getting outside the box, following research and trends in industries and fields other than entertainment that can be applied to our consulting and design work. We regularly track the restaurant, hospitality, business management, marketing, behavioral sciences, design, child development, children's play, education, and retail fields.

The psychological and emotional feel of a space is very important to how comfortable guests are, how long they will stay, how much they will spend and even whether they will return. Many design factors are subconscious in their impact on consumers' behavior. The following comes from the retail design industry.

Paco Underhill, CEO of Envirosell, a leading retail research and design consultancy that has conducted extensive behavior research in retail environments, has identified a shopping phenomena he has labeled the "butt-brush factor." Basically, his research has shown that when a woman is in a store that is crowded, whether due to narrow isles or crowding with people, and she is touched from behind by another shopper, she'll often move away from the merchandise she's interested in and avoid the crowded areas. In other words, shoppers are spooked by too-close quarters. The phenomena is also true of men, but to a lesser degree. Underhill's research has also shown that, "Helping the customer to feel that they are in control from beginning to end has become a major factor in a store's on-going relationship with its base market." In other words, it is important for the customer to easily navigate a store and find what they are looking for.

This design consideration certainly should be just as true for entertainment facilities.

This retail research finding is one aspect of a well-researched design and cultural phenomena know as proxemics or territorial or personal space. Different cultures have different spacings they are comfortable with. New Yorkers stand closer when they are talking and have no problem with tables being inches apart in restaurants, whereas the territorial spacing in the mid-West is much greater. In Kansas City, where our office is located, a New Yorker would think some restaurants forgot to order half the furniture, they are so spacious. If you were to use New York spacing in a Kansas City restaurant, you would probably be out of business in a year. If you used Kansas City spacing in New York, guests would probably think you were going bankrupt and someone had repossessed half your furniture. Or at a minimum, New Yorkers would feel very uneasy and anxious with so much space and probably not hang around long enough to have coffee and dessert.

Proxemics is just one of many factors our company carefully researches and takes into consideration in the design of leisure facilities.