5 on Your Side

Science of Shopping: 5 things department stores do to get you to buy

Posted December 9, 2010
Updated December 10, 2010

I caught this segment on the CBS Early show and thought it was pretty interesting.

I’ve done stories before about how products are placed in grocery stores so that you are more likely to buy them and how manufacturers even use certain colors in packaging that are more likely to grab your attention for a particular product.

The fact is, MOST if not ALL stores have strategies to get you to SPEND!

CBS interviewed John Long, whom they referred to as an expert in the science of retail. Did you even know there was such a thing? He says -- when you walk into a store, nothing is by accident. He says there truly is science behind it all.

Long says Secret number 1 is to appeal to the senses. Think WILLIAMS SONOMA! I am proof it works! Many times I’ve walked in there and the employees were making something that smelled really good! One treat I remember well is pumpkin squares made with their scrumptious pumpkin butter. I now keep my pantry stocked with it! Sometimes a strategy like that works so well that you buy the ingredients, the spoon to stir it with and the pan to bake it in!

Secret number 2 according to Long: One to show and one to go. That's when a retailer pre-wraps gifts so that you can get in and out of the store quickly and conveniently! You don’t have to do anything else! Sales can increase sales up to 50% with that strategy.

Secret number 3, one that also jumps sales by as much as 50%, END CAPS! When we see merchandise at the end of an aisle, we automatically think it’s special! Got to have it! Not to mention, many stores such as TARGET, put sale items on end caps. My husband ALWAYS checks the end caps – and more often than not buys stuff we don’t need because it was an “end cap deal.” It works!

Secret number 4: Long calls it stack 'em high and watch 'em fly. When stores display products from floor to ceiling, it catches our eyes! Again, we think it’s special! The sales increase for stores as much as 100%.

And secret number 5: The solution sale. Long says when stores put a variety of items together – think Crate and Barrel where they have those beautiful tables with the place settings, placemats, napkins, glasses and candles, you just want it all! Long says “solution sales” can also increase sales more than 100%.

I’d add secret number 6 to getting ME to SPEND anyway. Whatever it is, tell me it will make me look thinner and younger and I’ll buy it!!!


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  • jhilfiker2001 Dec 10, 2010

    grocery stores track everything you buy with those dumb savings cards, in case you guys dont know. They are recording everything you spend, to keep the place stocked appropriately. Places like kohls offers you free money to spend, hoping you will buy more than just the $10, I personally like that way because its at least something real, unlike the cheap tricks the grocery stores pull. Science has more to do with this than anything, and technology is another huge advantage they have now.

  • notagain1903 Dec 10, 2010

    The grocery store is another of the trap laden purchasing pits! My favorite is the 100 calorie snacks in the individual take along packaging. They come in .75 ounce pakages in the box of maybe 8 to 10. When you do the math it comes to about $9.00 a pound. At the same time you can by the original box of the same product that doesn't come in the little packages for about $2 for a pound and a half. For that price you can buy a box and get a box of snack bags to break it down to your allotmant of 100 calories for the price of about 6 - 7 boxes. An educated consumer is the worst customer for the stores. They want the "binge" buyer through the doors!! So buyer beware of all the trappings.....

  • dbass Dec 9, 2010

    You should read the book "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping" by Paco Underhill.

About this Blog:

In addition to the stories you see on TV, Monica is always looking for ways to help consumers find deals and avoid fraud. She'll blog about what you need to know here.