More than just purveyors of milk and eggs, supermarkets have learned how to entice consumers with smell, targeted shelf placement, and psychological subterfuge.
For instance, the layout of your local supermarket is not as arbitrary as it seems. It is designed to make you spend as much as possible on what the store wants you to buy—which is often more than what you came in for. Meat, poultry, and seafood are usually displayed along the entire back length of the store so that you will see them every time you emerge from an aisle—an appropriate placement for the most profitable department in the store!
Ever wonder why the dairy department is so far away from the main entrance? Almost everybody buys milk and eggs, and the stores recognize that. To reach the dairy case, you have to walk through the entire market, tossing a few extra items into your cart along the way. Half of a store's profits come from these "perimeter" items, which include milk, cheese, meat, deli products, and produce; the more time you spend shopping along the sides and back of the supermarket, the more money the store makes. It is no coincidence that you have to walk through the produce department just as you enter the market. Produce and flowers are the second most profitable department in the supermarket.
Here are some even subtler techniques supermarkets use to entice you to spend:
Placement of packages on supermarket shelves is very carefully planned. Supermarket executives use computer-generated planograms to help them place products on shelves in a way that creates the greatest possible profit.
As you decide which type of product to buy, determine how you plan to use it. Your family may balk at generic juices, but probably will not notice the difference between name-brand and house-brand dairy products, condiments, or canned vegetables.
American Dietetic Association
Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition
Dietitians of Canada
Gladwell M. The science of shopping. Available at: http://www.gladwell.com/1996_11_04_a_shopping.htm.
Staten V.Can You Trust a Tomato in January? The Hidden Life of Groceries and Other Secrets of the Supermarket Revealed at Last. Simon and Schuster; 1992.
Underhill P.Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. Simon and Schuster; 1999.