Grocery Store Designs are Based on Psychology
By Kaye Nemec
Grocery stores design their floor-plan and shelf layouts based on sales data, practical research and even psychology.
From the placement of flower, produce and bakery departments to the detailed way each shelf is stocked, researchers have spent years studying the psychology of grocery store design in order to maximize profits. That’s right, it’s not about making the store work the best for the shopper, it’s about making the shopper work for the store.
When you walk into your local grocery store you will, most likely, walk into fresh produce and fresh flowers and you can probably see and smell the bakery just around the next corner.
Flowers and fresh baked goods are placed close to the entrance to stimulate the shopper with the varying sights, scents and tastes. These departments have very high margins, so the store is betting you’ll spend extra time browsing, take in all of the fresh sights and scents and, hopefully, picking up a few items you didn’t intend to buy. When you are exposed to such a pleasant scene at the entrance your mind is comforted with the notion that this store has fresh items. It also activates your salivary glands which makes you more likely to purchase impulse items that are not on your list.
Staple items, or the items that consumers purchase most often, such as: bread, milk and eggs, are typically placed at the very back of the store or in the corners. If you wanted to make a quick trip to get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread, you are forced to walk past several other aisles and sections of the store that are filled with tempting items for you to toss in your cart.
If you’ve ever taken kids to the grocery store you may have noticed how easily they’re able to grab items like sugary cereal, Mac & Cheese, cookies and other highly advertised products.
The cereal aisle is a great example of how stores stock shelves so items that appeal to kids are at their eye level. Typically the “healthy” cereals, like granola and bran, are at the very top of the shelf. Towards the bottom you’ll find bulk items like bags of cereal and jumbo boxes. And right in the middle, at the eye level of your children, you’ll find things like Trix, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms etc. Kids are able to grab these cereals themselves or beg their parents to add them to the cart.
They also happen to be some of the higher margin cereals. The same principle is used in most aisles, the items with the most profit are in the “Thigh to Eye” zone where customers will see them first.
Many stores also charge manufacturers a “listing fee” (aka Slotting Fee) to place a product on their shelves. If you’ve got a great idea for a product, you’ll probably have to cough up tens of thousands of dollars just to put that product on the shelf at your local supermarket. These fees are paid once for the lifetime of each SKU, but if the product is not selling well then the item will be not be carried any longer and you won’t get your listing fee back.
Placing a product on an aisle’s end cap is usually an additional fee that manufacturers pay when they want to further promote a product. Some stores also limit the number of brands in a specific category and companies may pay to be the exclusive brand in that category.
These are all ways that retailers make additional money and give the manufacturers some control over how you find their products.
Now that you know some grocery store secrets, you can avoid their traps. Always go to the store with a list and stick to it. Only buy the items you need; avoid walking down aisles that don’t relate to your list. If you bring kids with you, make sure they are aware of your list and don’t give in to their begging.
Photo: J-P F (cc)