How many times have you ducked into a supermarket for bread and milk and ended up with a full basket? Coincidence? Probably not.
According to Pat Kendall, retired Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist for Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, supermarket designers continually conduct extensive research on consumers shopping habits to ensure you fill that cart with unplanned items.
Here are 10 tactics supermarkets use to ensure you spend more time and money in their stores.
1. First-in-flow lay-out: The first aisle is usually dedicated to high-ticket produce, which then leads around the perimeter of the store to meats, dairy products, the deli, pre-produced foods and the bakery. Even if you shop just the perimeter, you're hitting the higher-ticket and most commonly purchased items.
2. Eye-level product placement: We may scan lower or higher shelves, but we read packaging and price information more easily at head height. Thus, the highest profit items are placed at head height. Aisles containing products that attract children, like sugar-filled cereals, are placed on the bottom shelves where children can reach them.
3. Placement of dairy and meat: Locating more commonly purchased fresh items at the back of the store forces you to walk through the entire store to find the items you came in for.
4. In-store bakery placement: Locating the bakery at the far end of the store ensures the smell of baked goods will entice you through the entire store while making you feel hungry and more likely to buy additional items. Stores also bake bread during the after-work rush to increase shoppers' appetites.
5. Ticket and tag deception: We assume tags highlight sale items, but stores also attach tags to non-sale items that say things like "everyday low price" to help maximize sales.
6. Multiple locations: Ever wonder why salad dressing is sold both in the produce section and with condiments? Dressings sold in the produce section present an impulse-purchase opportunity and tend to be the more expensive brands than those sold in condiments.
7. Retail Theater: You don’t just buy fish from a fish counter. You buy fish from a refrigerated counter surrounded by trappings of the sea, images of trawlers and fishermen and sometimes even the sound of waves and seagulls. This is known as "retail theater," which makes food more attractive.
8. Product clusters: Instead of placing coffee in the beverage section and cereal in it's own section, stores more frequently are clustering these products together into a "breakfast universe." The same goes with "baby universes" or "tableware universes." Because consumers create their shopping lists in such categories, this makes it easier to remember and locate the products on your list.
9. Impulse items at check out and end-of-aisles: Customers often grab items advertised at the end of aisles, assuming the products are on sale. The area surrounding check-outs also are packed with impulse-purchase items like batteries, gum, candy bars, magazines and other frivolous products not on your list. In addition, candy is often placed low enough to attract the eyes of young children.
10. Frozen foods: These usually are the last items you encounter in the aisles so foods won't defrost by the time you finish shopping.