Today’s post is by Gayl Southard, Administrative Consultant, SafeSourcing.
Running into the local Kroger or Safeway for a quart of milk and coming out with a cartload of unintended food purchases is universal—and it’s not our fault. Supermarkets make us do it, or at least they try. Grocery shopping is an orchestrated process. Every feature of the store—from floor plan and shelf layout to lighting, music, and ladies in aprons offering free sausages on sticks—is designed to lure us in, and seduce us into spending money. Once you enter a grocery store, it’s often not easy to get out again. A common feature of supermarkets is the one-way entry door; to get back out, you’re compelled to walk through a good portion of the store. After the one-way front door, the feature first displayed is the produce department. The impact of all those scents, textures, and colors (think fat tomatoes, glossy eggplants, luscious strawberries) makes us feel both upbeat and hungry. Also the store bakery is usually near the entrance, with its smell of fresh-baked bread; as is the flower shop, with its buckets of tulips, and bouquets gorgeous flowers. The message we get right off the bat is that the store is a welcoming place.
The cruel truth is that the produce department is less garden and kitchen than stage set. Lighting is chosen to make fruits and veggies appear at their brightest and best; and – according to Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy—the sprays of fresh water over the produce bins are all for show. Though used to give fresh foods a deceptive dewy and fresh-picked look, the water actually has no real purpose. It actually makes vegetables spoil faster. “A classic of this kind of customer manipulation, Lindstrom points out, is the banana—still America’s favorite fruit—whose signature ripe yellow is actually the result of painstaking marketing analyses. Sales records indicated the customers bought more bananas if their peels were Pantone color 12-0752 (Buttercup) rather than the slightly brighter Pantone color 13-0858 (Vibrant Yellow). Banana growers responded by planting their crops under conditions tailored to produce Buttercup.”1
The supermarket is designed to make customers spend as much time as possible in the store. Dairy departments are almost always located as far from the entrance as possible. Customers will most likely have at least one dairy item on their list which will make them walk the length of the store. Mid-aisle positioning is intended to sideline the so-called Boomerang Effect, in which some shoppers (notably men) simply head for the item they need, then return the way they came.
“Music encourages us to dawdle: A famous study of background music and supermarket shoppers, conducted in 1982, found that people spent 34 percent more time shopping, with a corresponding uptick in sales, in stores that played music. And supermarkets tend to be devoid of external time cues: most have no windows or skylights, and shoppers are often hard-pressed to find a clock.
The theory is the longer you stay in the store, the more stuff you’ll see, and the more stuff you see, the more you’ll buy. The average supermarket carries approximately 44,000 different items. “According to brain-scan experiments conducted by Paul Mullins and colleagues of Bangor University, Wales, the demands of so much decision-making quickly become too much for us. After about 40 minutes of shopping, most people stop struggling to be rationally selective, and instead began shopping emotionally—which is the point at which we accumulate the 50 percent of stuff in our cart that we never intended buying.”2
Shelf order is a psychological trap. The expensive items are generally placed at eye level; generic brands are on the lower shelves so that you have to crouch. Foods meant to appeal to kids are set at kids’ eye level so that the cartoon characters on the boxes make eye contact with (short) passers-by.
The displays at the ends of the aisles (end caps) are shopper traps. Companies pay high prices to display their products there. A product at an end cap sells eight times faster than the same product shelved elsewhere on the aisle. Also the size of our shopping carts increases the chance of our buying more. Carts have tripled in size, and they’re still growing. Shoppers tend to buy 40 percent more with a bigger cart. So what to do about all this? Make a list and stick to it. Try not to shop so often—fewer and more efficient trips to the store are easier on the pocketbook.
For more information on SafeSourcing and how we can help you with your sourcing needs, or on our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.
1, 2. Rebecca Rupp, The Plate, 6/15/2015