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How Your Local Supermarket Is Designed to Spark Spending Sprees

James Ranka, more widely known online as Copywriter31, earned two BA's—one in Mass Communications and the other in Music Performance.

Photo Artist: James Ranka

Photo Artist: James Ranka

Tips to Avoid the Traps

Supermarkets employ painstaking layout and design arrangements. Their scientifically researched system is intended for customer coercion to buy more items or purchase "luxury foods" the shopper would not normally buy. In other words, grocery shoppers are unknowingly manipulated each and every time they make a trip to a favorite supermarket!

This writer reasoned I was influenced by Hocus Pocus when I recently shopped at my local supermarket. I intended to buy 2 items, but at checkout, I became aware that I spent $60 to pay for 27 assorted widgets and groceries.

On the trip back home, I mentally revisited my grocery shopping spending spree.

The produce section is often shaped like a half-circle.

The produce section is often shaped like a half-circle.

The Manipulation Begins

The first layout manipulator was located to my immediate left in a spacious, open, multicolored produce section. Oh, it was beautiful!

Opulent oranges, rich reds, deep greens—all the colors of a brilliant rainbow opened my tired, end-of-the-day, bloodshot eyes. The bountiful beauty beckoned, and any resistance proved to be futile. I visited the produce section and bought the makings for a salad.

The produce section was constructed to be a half circle 'leading' the customer on a path that ends at the sushi bar. I had never before eaten sushi of any sort, but I obliged a particularly likeable woman by tasting a sample she handed over… It was delicious! Add 2 more items at $7 each and the deception continues.

A Clockwork Red

As the supermarket layout took me beyond the deli section (where I bought Swiss cheese, uncured pastrami, and a freshly-baked loaf of multi-grain bread), I began noticing various signs, tags, and displays. Nearly all of them were a vivid shade of red. I wondered about the predominance of red in a supermarket, so I researched this supermarket marketing perspective.

Human eyes possess a retina containing three types of cone cells. Each cone cell is designed for a response to light containing pigments of the visual spectrum—green, blue, and red. Because humans have this three-cone system, we are able to identify over 2 million color variations. Research proves the human eye is particularly sensitive to the reds in the spectrum. (An extremely basic explanation for a hugely complex activity! )

While taking notice of the color of red usage, I noticed shoppers (myself included) were not walking up and down each aisle . . . most moved, for example, from aisle #12 to aisle #2, then to #6. They never walked the entire length of any aisle. Supermarket design plays on this variable by placing products with the highest profit margin at the END of every aisle.

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Confession Time: I Am a Lazy Shopper, How About You?

Supermarket design research proves shoppers are, on the whole, a lazy group. How often do you check items above or below your eye level? Most will answer 'never.' This is the reason "hot moving products" are placed at eye level down every aisle.

Supermarkets have this grocery store layout and design down to a science. Don't reason for a split second these corporations simply willy-nilly "build" a new grocery store or supermarket. Tons of time go into studying the surrounding area learning the culture, shopping habits, demographics, etc.

When an unsuspecting shopper walks in the door of any supermarket, that person is targeted, studied, and eventually, manipulated into filling their shopping carts with items, not on their list of things to buy.

Protection From This Design and Layout Assault

  1. Make a list: Beyond making the list, decide to stay within its boundaries. Now that you are armed with the knowledge of how supermarket layout and design encourages impulse buying, this should be an easy resolution.
  2. Do not buy ready-made, packaged lettuce and/or salad bags: The ready-to-go salad bags are marked up 5 times the price of one head of lettuce.
  3. Do not grocery shop when you feel hungry: This is a fairly obvious point, but supermarket research proves hungry shoppers buy more items because most any brightly packaged, delicious food will find its way to the grocery cart.
  4. Buy generic: Today's generic brands are much cheaper and taste as good as their name-brand counterparts.
  5. Prepare your meals at home: Supermarkets are now known to hire professional chefs to make prepared meals sold in the store. Purchasing individual items for a home-prepared meal avoids a mark-up of 450% or higher.
  6. Pay with cash: From your shopping list, estimate the approximate cost of your groceries at checkout. Bring enough cash to cover the items on the list, then add $10. Leave your credit cards at home!
  7. Groceries ONLY: Never buy any non-perishable items like cleaning supplies, pots, pans, soap, hair spray, etc. at a supermarket. Wait for the next trip to Walmart, or stores like Dollar General for these purchases. Supermarket mark-up for these items is astronomical.

Knowledge Is Power

In addition, middle-class tax increases kick in throughout this year, and beyond, consumers will be forced to work with smaller, tighter budgets. The above-listed tips can help to a huge degree.

You are now aware supermarkets use psychology for the singular purpose of selling more items at the highest profit margin possible.

If you make a commitment to use this information every time you grocery shop, the shock of seeing a full grocery cart at checkout will become a bygone and unnecessary memory.


James Ranka (author) from Port Neches on January 28, 2013:

Thank you, pstraubie48. A trip to the supermarket requires an iron will! It's VERY difficult to strictly stay with a list.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 28, 2013:

Great job. I am hypnotized every time I enter my favorite markets. The produce sections gets me every time...and that is not a bad thing. But the other lures that are drawing me to places I do not need to go to are ever present.

This was very interesting and I am sharing and voting up.

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