How the Layouts of Grocery Stores are Secretly Designed to Make You Spend More Money


So this topic probably doesn’t sound veryinteresting, but I promise it’s at least somewhat interesting. Keep in mind that everythingI’m saying here is about the most efficient and profitable design of a grocery store sodon’t go complaining if your neighborhood Tesco or Safeway isn’t exactly the same,but chances are next time you go to the grocery store you’ll notice at least some of theseprinciples at work. Let’s start with the entrance of the grocery store. Americans inparticular love shopping in a counter-clockwise path. For this reason, the door to grocerystores will typically be on the right hand side in the United States and the checkoutcounters will be on the left. In the UK, it’s often the opposite.

For this reason, researchersspeculate that this tendency to move in one direction is linked to the side of the roadthat the two demographics drive on. In one research study, Americans’ desire to movein a counter-clockwise path in a grocery store was so great that they actually went aroundphysical barriers that researchers put up in the store in order to move in a counterclockwisedirection. This tendency actually works in stores’ favor as well. Research shows thatprofits are higher in US grocery stores with an entrance to the right. It allows individualsto be move in the path that they like and also exposes shoppers to the most amount ofmerchandise possible. In fact, Americans spend on average $2 moreper trip when they move through a grocery store in a counter-clockwise pattern. Thismay not seem like much, but when considering that every American goes to the grocery storean average of 1.5 times per week, or 78 times a year, this amounts to enormous differencesin profits.

The periphery of grocery store is also verycalculated. Items that are almost always purchased in a trip to the grocery store—milk, meat,eggs—are spread out around the perimeter to force the shopper to be exposed to themost merchandise possible. Shoppers will almost always need to go to these sections, so theposition of the milk, meat, and eggs dictates the way a shopper can move through the store.Within the center isles, some retailers will put the most sold items in the center of theisles to force the shopper to walk by even more merchandise. Looking at the cereal section,we can see the principle of “eye level is buy level”. In the ideal circumstance, themost profitable cereals are put at eye level. This often means that large brand name cerealsare put in these middle shelves. At a kid’s eye level, retailers will often put the sugarykind of cereal that kids will pester their parents for. Often on the bottom levels arethe bulk price or generic brand cereals. Those who are being frivolous are usually willingto look around for the best deals and often have clear intent to buy the product aheadof time.

It’s much more likely that individuals will impulsively buy brand name cereal thanbulk size generic cereal. On the top level is usually the healthy or small-brand cereal.Usually those who are buying healthy cereal have clear intent to buy that cereal, andprofits are often lower on these cereals. Also a prime location for items that retailerswant to push is the endcaps—the ends of isles. Almost all shoppers will pass theseendcaps because of the perimeter pattern we discussed earlier. Interestingly, the liquorstore monopoly in Sweden uses this principle in reverse. The monopoly was created by thegovernment to promote moderation in alcohol consumption so one of the things they do toprevent impulse purchases is not have any endcap displays.So thats all the ways the layout of grocery stores is designed to manipulate you. Nexttime you go to the grocery store look out for some of these retail principles and I’msure you’ll be able to spot at least some of them.


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