Supermarkets spend millions on advertising campaigns, telling us that ‘Every Little Helps’, or we can ‘Eat Well For Less’. But actually, they use every trick in the book to get us to buy more. And it all starts with the supermarket layout.

Have you ever gone into a supermarket for a couple of items and come out an hour later with a trolley of stuff you don’t need? It happens to the best of us and with alarming frequency.

I even joke about it when I get to the tills. I tell the cashier that I only came in for a pint of milk and we laugh. But in an age where food waste is becoming more of a problem we need to know what is making us buy more.

It might surprise you to learn that a supermarket will use one very basic tool to entice us into opening our wallets, the actual layout of the store. But how is it done?

Here Are 8 Tricks Every Supermarket Uses in Their Layout

1. Cashpoints at the entrance

Before you even enter a supermarket you’ll walk past several convenient cashpoints. They are there to make sure you can draw out more money if you need to.

2. Front of the store

I guarantee you that if you walk into any supermarket in the western world, the first thing you’ll see is fruit and vegetables. But why is this important? Fruit and veg are fresh and vibrant, they perk us up. They give the impression the store is clean and energetic and lively.

They literally wake us up so we are ready to shop. Don’t believe me? Picture walking into a supermarket and instead of fruit and veg, there are aisles of toilet cleaner and dishcloths. Do you feel inspired to shop? Supermarkets don’t want to lose out on the quick shoppers.

These are ones that are there to grab a sandwich for lunch or a newspaper for the train. That’s why you’ll never see snack items at the back. As a result, the entrances of many large supermarkets are designed to reassemble a smaller local store. Everything is within easy reach for those in a hurry.

3. Staple items at the back

Ever wondered why supermarkets choose to place the most ordinary basic items at the back? If you want to buy stuff like milk, bread, tea, and coffee the layout of a supermarket will make you walk for it. Consequently, as you’re walking you are also passing by products that are screaming ‘Buy Me!

What are the chances you might pop a few in your trolley? Pretty high actually. The more items the supermarket can expose you to the more likely you’ll buy something.

4. Bakery items near the entrance

Nothing gets us thinking about food than the smell of baking bread. I’ve bought whole loaves knowing I won’t be able to eat them just because of the wafting scents.

Once you’ve passed the fresh environment of the fruit and vegetables the object is to get you hungry and thinking about food. Supermarkets know they won’t do that with tins or cleaning products. Baking bread gets us salivating.

5. Grocery items in the middle of the store

Supermarket layouts use certain goods to draw you deeper into the store and canned and grocery items are great examples. Tinned items aren’t anything to get excited about but we all need stuff like pet food, baked beans, etc. By placing them deep in the center of the store we are drawn in whether we want to go or not.

6. New products on the end of aisles

Brands pay a premium to place their products on the ends of aisles because as we walk around them we naturally slow down and take notice. And anywhere a shopper lingers they are more likely to pick up a product.

7. Golden zones

These are also called ‘grab’ or ‘impulse’ zones. They are areas within the layout of the supermarket that have treats to tempt the shopper to buy.

Think of the checkouts that have sweets on shelves as you wait to pay for your shopping. Or self-service tills and the aisles where you queue packed with treats. You are like rats trapped in a maze with temptation all around you.

8. Product placement

Supermarkets don’t just use the layout of their stores to entice us into buying more, they also recognize that where a product is placed in an aisle is also important. Top shelves will house luxury and gourmet products. This gives the area an air of class and sophistication but if you want the item you’ll have to reach a little.

Best-selling brands are at eye level where they are easily picked out. This is the ‘Bull’s-Eye Zone’. Budget and store brands are on the lower shelves as people who want them will always go searching for them.

How to Avoid Spending More in Supermarkets

How to Avoid Spending More in Supermarkets

Supermarkets use a great number of psychological tricks to get us to spend more. Here are a few tips on how to avoid buying what you don’t need.

  • Plan a seven-day menu and make a list of what you need.
  • Take the list with you and stick to it.
  • Don’t be tempted by BOGOF offers.
  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry.
  • Stick to an agreed budget.
  • Swap big name brands for the store’s own.
  • Cut back on last-minute impulse treats.

We all need to stop buying more, reusing what we have already got and reduce waste. Understanding the psychology of the supermarket layout is definitely the first step in doing so.



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