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Sneaky Ways Grocery Stores Get You to Spend More

By Edited Aug 27, 2016 4 6

Every day people enter grocery store doors to do their shopping. Sometimes it's a planned pantry restock, other times they plan to stop in for just a few items. Either way, a good percentage of these shoppers probably end up spending a lot more than they intended to before they walked through those doors. This is because grocery stores use strategies as an attempt to get you to buy more.  

A business' primary intent is to make money and, as such, business marketers tend to pull out all the stops in order to convince consumers to spend more money. Grocery stores are an area of marketing that has mastered the concept. Here are a few of the top techniques grocery stores use as an attempt to boost sales:

Put Items in Sale Aisles

The word “sale” is a great way to attract consumer attention. After all, who doesn't love a good sale? Many grocery stores even designate sale, or bargain, aisles. While some of the items may be a legitimate good deal, other items, not so much.

Consider those sales which offer 10 bottles of condiments or 10 cans of fruits/vegetables for a dollar. Many of those items often sell for .79 cents or less on their own before being packaged as a sale item. So actually, consumers who are attracted to the “sale” end up spending several cents more per can, and buying multiples to boot. Factor in those expiration dates that seem to get shorter and shorter with each passing year and many of these foods are likely to become trash.

Grocery store bins
Credit: itkannan4u via Pixabay/https://pixabay.com/en/supermarket-shopping-sales-store-435452/

Grocery stores love to use aisle ends, prominent shelving and strategically placed bins in order to highlight certain products with the intent to grab a customer's eye.

Call the Price Quoted a Sale

Another tactic grocery stores use is to simply make up a sale. They may choose a selected item, put it in a special aisle or display and call it a special. In reality, these items are being sold for the same price they always have been; more than likely the grocery store just wants to move inventory.

On a related note, some stores use deceptive advertising through product placement and very specific terms of the sale. A piece by Reader’s Digest, where employees were interviewed, gave the example of a store offering 50 percent off a 10 oz. package of ham, but put the sign between the 10 oz. and 16 oz. packages. Shoppers who grabbed the larger package didn’t get the discount. 1

Strategically Placed Complements

Not all sales are invented. Many grocery stores can and do offer legitimate sales which are a great buy for consumers. However, these sales are often designed to get you to buy more. One popular technique is to create an attractive looking display in a highly visible location with the sale item. Once the sale table is set, the surrounding area is filled with other non-sale items that complement the bargain item.

As an example, say the sale item is sugar, what the grocery store manager may do is position other non-sale baking items to be displayed surrounding the sugar.  Or the grocery may offer meal ideas and position other inventory near the sale item and promote as suggestions to complement the lower priced item.

So while the company makes less on the sale item, in many instances, if consumers take the bait, they've just walked out of the grocery store with many more items than they probably originally intended to buy.

Supermarket
Credit: stevepb via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/shopping-supermarket-merchandising-1232944/

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Set a Limit (must buy 2)

Another tactic grocery stores like to use is the “must buy” directive. In other words, a consumer can get a great deal on a can of tuna, but the sale price is only given if two packages are bought. If only one package of meat is needed, the sale price is not given, so many consumers end up buying the extra item they originally had no intention to buy.

In some instances limits are set, but not enforced, yet stores do not share this detail with the consumer. Say an item is marked "Two for $2", and, in many instances, a consumer's eye is trained to see that as two of the item must be bought. However, if only one item is brought to the register, the price will ring up as $1 despite only one item purchased.

Store Layout

Stores are very selective in how they create displays to try to entice consumers to pay more through buying products not on their shopping lists. Marketers like to appeal to emotion and, by positioning tempting items in store entryways, ends of aisles and by the register, a consumer's grocery bill can easily be inflated if those carefully placed items are purchased. It’s no accident the “essentials” are more often than not placed at the back of the store.

Grocery shopping
Credit: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/shopping-business-retail-1165437/

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Advertisements are obviously designed to entice. Attractive ads which are prominently displayed in entryways and in other strategic areas in the store often convince consumers to buy items they normally would not buy. Essentially, a sale is not a sale unless the item is one normally bought or would be used regularly, if not, then the grocery just effectively convinced a consumer to spend more. Not to mention many of those listings in store circulars are just highlighted everyday prices.

Some of the extra cost in a grocery bill can be related to consumer impulse spending, however, some of the additional money spent can undoubtedly be due to the fact that grocery stores carefully and strategically plan ways to get you to buy more.

In order to avoid getting sucked into these traps, a good approach is to know your prices well and stick to your list. This way, if you want to stick to a budget or designated amount, by consistently following these approaches, you'll avoid falling into the consumer traps that grocery stores set throughout the various departments.

Related Reading: [ Ways Grocery Stores Use Rewards Cards for More Than Just Discounts ]

grocery shopping receipt
Credit: stevepb via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/shopping-spending-till-slip-879498/
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Comments

Apr 8, 2016 1:37pm
LavenderRose
I used to avoid case-lot sales here in Utah because I thought you had to buy a whole case of something to get it for the lower price like you do at Costco. If you ask, they don't lie, but they definitely don't share that little detail. Glad I figured it out. It's been helpful at other stores doing a 10 for $10 thing.
Apr 8, 2016 4:49pm
LeighGoessl
I too didn't realize this for a long time and would always buy the full amount advertised at any given store or skip it.
The other day I was at Whole Foods buying organic strawberries that were on sale as a two-fer. But I didn't want two of them, so I bought the one and when it rang up, I was charged the sale price. What I also like about that store is if there, say a, 10 for $10 sale on something, they tell me if I go back and grab 2 more to make it a dozen/case, they take 10 percent more off the overall price.
May 26, 2016 10:19am
HLesley
Good article, Leigh. You have to do the math with case lots. Sometimes they are a good deal and sometimes not. Also coupons are not always such a bargain. They will give you a few cents off a brand name item, but even after the discount the store brand is often still cheaper.
May 31, 2016 10:05am
LeighGoessl
Those are great points, thanks. And I agree about those coupons, sometimes it's a worthwhile effort, but other times, not so much.
Jun 9, 2016 9:27am
caranoch
Those end of the aisle spots are not cheap.
The big grocery chains charge tens of thousands of dollars
to a company to display their product there.
Jun 10, 2016 4:26am
LeighGoessl
That's an interesting point from the flip side, thanks
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Bibliography

  1. Michelle Crouch "50 Supermarket Tricks You Still Fall For." Reader's Digest. 4/04/2016 <Web >
  2. "Top 10 tricks used by grocery stores to boost their profits by selling you junk." Top 10 Grocery Secrets. 4/04/2016 <Web >
  3. "Surviving the Sneaky Psychology of Supermarkets." National Geographic - The Plate. 15/06/2015. 4/04/2016 <Web >

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