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How Stores Move Merchandise


Retailers don’t just throw all their merchandise into a big pile and invite customers to sift through it until they find what they want. Any store that did that wouldn’t be in business very long. Instead, stores take time to really plan things out and determine what should be on each aisle. The places you shop also use customers like you to help them figure out where things should go. It may be a bit disconcerting to hear, but they use data points collected from customers’ visits to figure out what’s working and what’s not. If a lot of customers are buying a particular kind of potato chip, then maybe that big display at the front of the store is working. If peanut butter sales are flat, maybe the jars need to be placed at eye level rather than below eye level. Brands can even pay retailers to ensure they get prime real estate inside their stores. When you walk into a grocery store, you probably just want to get your food and get out as quickly as possible, but retailers and brands want you to stay a while, and they organize the store with that principle in mind.

Shelves and more

Shelves are a staple of most retail stores. They’re reliable and can hold everything from books to canned goods. But shelves aren’t the only weapon in retail stores’ arsenal. Some retailers decide that they have a product that’s so special that it needs to be displayed in a unique, innovative way. They may use a steel slatwall, a glass case, or something else. The point is to get people’s attention, because people can’t buy a product if they don’t notice it first.

Think of the last time something in a grocery store really took you by surprise. One of the easiest ways to get people’s attention is to spell out things in unexpected ways. Think of those soda displays that spell out words or numbers by using soda cases with different colors. A 12-pack of soda looks simple enough sitting on a shelf, but if you combine it with 100 other packages of the fizzy stuff, you can get something pretty cool-looking. If you put the display in the entranceway to your store, then you’ve just gone a long way towards making sure people are thinking about soda as they walk through the doors and grab a shopping cart.

Going bananas

People buy more soup and summer and more ice cream in winter, and so stores adjust their stock accordingly based on time of year. But did you know the number-one selling item in grocery stores is actually bananas? So next time you see a big display of bananas right by the checkout stand, you’ll know why. And it’s not uncommon for there to be displays of fruit or baked goods ready to greet you when you walk into a grocery store. Those items are way more likely to get your mouth watering than, say, a large display of light bulbs. And grocery stores know that hungry shoppers make more impulse buys.

This kind of trickery isn’t limited to just grocery stores. Almost every major retailer does it, from liquor stores in Woodbridge, New Jersey, to electronics retailers in Sacramento, California. Nothing is an accident. It’s all designed to get you to buy more things and spend more money. And based on how easy it is to go inside “for just a couple of things” and walk out $50 poorer, it’s working quite well.


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