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The Urge to Splurge

July 29, 2017 Psychology Enakshi Dasgupta

Retail shops start nudging you towards the cash register from the moment you walk in. There are a variety of tactics they use and these map out your shopping experience.

Shopping is often called “Retail Therapy”. As any person who has ever experienced the joys of shopping will know, it is so much more than just buying what you need.Research shows that shopping may very well be an effective way to minimize feelings of sadness and helps to repair mood.Sadness, more than any other emotion, engenders a sense of lack of control over one’s surroundings. You may be sad that your favourite restaurant was shut the night you decided to have an impromptu date, or that a public holiday falls on Sunday this year. But there’s nothing much you can do to get the restaurant to open or shift the calendar. Sadness in people is often associated with a feeling of helplessness—of being unable to control what is happening in the environment.Research shows that people who are sad are much more willing to part with their money to acquire an object. So much so that there is a term “misery is not miserly” coined.

Research shows that crowded supermarkets diminish a shopper’s sense of control, leading to excessive buying. In a field study, scholars have found that consumers in a crowded store are more likely to buy and spend significantly more than shoppers in an uncrowded store. Some stores may be cluttered by design. Unbeknownst to you, the overloaded shelves and overflowing aisles in retail shops are encouraging you to hoard.

Following are the ways retailers control your shopping experience:

  1. The Landing Strip
    Most shoppers tend to walk at a brisk speed from the parking lot into the shop, therefore the retailers try to slow the customers down, generally using a table cloth, signs, or “greeters” as speed bumps.
  2. Signs
    Signs with one or two words tend to work best at drawing a person’s attention to merchandise advertised.
  3. Turn Right
    Most shoppers tend to turn right first, generally because most of them are right handed. The most high profit merchandise is therefore placed on the shelves on the right.
  4. Cosmetics Connections
    Cosmetics are generally an impulse buy, especially for adult women. Therefore, cosmetics stores tend to pop up in the corners to encourage that impulse.
  5. Narcissism
    Shoppers generally tend to speed walk around the shop. Shop owners therefore put up mirrors in strategic locations, because customers are as interested in the merchandise as in fixing their makeup and hair.
  6. Genes?
    About 25 per cent of women buyers tend to buy jeans after trying them on while almost 70 per cent of men customers prefer to try their jeans on before buying them.
  7. Packs of Teens
    Teenage girls who shop in packs tend to buy more than those shopping alone, feeding off, perhaps, of the impulsivity of each other. Presence of family members tend to squelch that urge.
  8. Boys love Girls
    There is generally a large number of teen boys hanging out at shopping centres. But they are more interested in the girls than the merchandise.
  9. Under the spotlight
    Studies have shown that spotlighting merchandise increases sales.
  10. Sweet Talking’
    Employees are instructed to greet the customer within six seconds of them entering the shop. It is believed that the practice deters shoplifters. Shoppers also feel guilty if they don’t buy something after getting help from an employee.

Retail stores map out your experience from the moment you enter the shop till the moment you step out. But, Forewarned is forearmed. So next time you step into a shop, keep these points in mind and control your own shopping experience!


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