The Psychology of Your Grocery Store

I work in a grocery store. Every week, I alternate between two different stores, occasionally visiting a couple other ones as needed.

In the past few months working this job, I’ve noticed some interesting psychological tactics in use to get people to spend more money. But first, you need to know what I do. My official title is “Retail Reset Merchandiser”. It sounds really vague but I basically move product around all day. Most of the time, this is either to accommodate new or discontinued items or to change the organization of product on the shelf. I didn’t know this job existed five months ago, but the psychology involved is really interesting.

Product placement

Most of the time, name brands are placed at eye level. Sometimes, I have to increase the facings (the number of products that go side by side) of these brand name products at eye level. This encourages people to buy more expensive products.

Always, without fail, the cheapest brands go on the bottom shelf. I haven’t ever noticed an exception to this rule. Additionally, at stores that are in a low-income part of town, there are more facings of these cheap products than there are at other stores.

Products targeted towards kids are at their eye level. I’ve noticed this with items such as shampoo, cereal, and toothpaste.

Additionally, the most popular items are typically placed in the middle of an aisle, making sure that you see many other products before finding the one that you want. This increases the likelihood of you buying more.

Basically, every single product is strategically placed to make you spend more money.

Store Layout

In every store that I’ve worked at, the layout is slightly different, but mostly the same. The produce section is always close to the front of the store, right after you walk in the door. The floral area is strategically placed at the front of the store very close to the produce. The dairy, bread, and meat are always at the back of the store.

This is true for practically every grocery store I’ve been in my entire life. Why?

The produce section is always colorful and has great lighting. The customer instinctively and subconsciously thinks that everything in the store is fresh and is enticed into buying more. It’s placed at the front to create this impression right away.

Flowers smell amazing. They are also colorful. Right when you walk in, this adds to the fresh and compelling image of the store.

The dairy, meat, and bread sections are full of items that are typically on everyone’s list. Customers have to walk through the whole store to get those items. They have my favorite cookies! Ooh, there’s some taco seasoning – I totally forgot that I need that. The more products people see, the more likely they are to buy something.

As you walk from isle to isle, endcaps filled with product are strategically placed. A lot of the time, companies pay an extra fee for these spaces, because they are proven to increase the perception of the value and quality of their product. They are also prime for impulse buying.

Be Aware

The next time you walk into a grocery store, see if you notice any of these things. It might save you some money in the long term if you know some of the tricks that grocery stores use on you.


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