Why stores always put candy and drinks near the cash register

This scene, repeated countless times every day at grocery stores and convenience stores, is a textbook example of impulse buying.

Your decision to grab the gum may have been voluntary, but your plan to lure you out of the checkout was carefully crafted. It’s valuable to stores and brands as much as shoppers spend. 6 billion dollars According to market research firm IRI, last year,

“Impulsive buying represents a much larger component of consumer behavior than people realize,” said James Burrows, who studies consumer patterns at the McIntyre School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. “The storefront is the best real estate to place impulsive items.”

But how do companies choose which products to place at the checkout counter? Why do we act on impulse at the end of a shopping trip? Are there any downsides to using impulse buying?

milk after. cereal near the floor

The transition to self-service supermarkets in the early 20th century helped kickstart impulse shopping.

Suddenly, instead of asking the clerk to complete an order, shoppers can walk around the store and take anything they want from the shelves. Then in the 1930s and 1940s, the introduction of shopping carts created a boom in impulse shopping.

Stores today map virtually every area of ​​their physical environment to influence shopper decisions. Dairy cases, for example, are placed at the back of the store, allowing customers to wander and buy a lot of other products before they buy milk. Meat boxes are often located opposite the store to allow shoppers to move around and toss more items into their carts.

It’s no coincidence that tomato sauce is next to the pasta and the waffle cone is next to the ice cream freezer. This is a strategy known as cross merchandising. Cereal boxes are usually near the floor at children’s eye level, making it easier for parents to convince them to purchase.

It's hard to resist salt and sugar at the checkout counter.

“The lighting, the temperature, the configuration of the shelves and aisles, all of these have been extensively studied and refined,” said Marion Nestle, professor emeritus of nutrition and food research at New York University. “And its purpose is to get people to buy more products.”

Brands also pay “slot fees” to stores that play an important role in product placement. Some of the best places are eye level placement of shelves, end cap displays in aisles, and near the most prominent cash registers.

Major food and beverage brands are particularly focused on placing their products near the checkout counters that everyone passes through, as opposed to the candy and soft drink corners. (Most people go to the candy store mainly on Halloween or other holidays.)

Stores place smaller, cheaper items near the checkout for quick consumption as they are easier for customers to add to their shopping carts instead of, for example, 8 packs of paper towels.

“This is your last chance to add one or two items during launch,” said Burroughs of the University of Virginia.

‘Healthy Checkout’

Marketing experts say candy is the end of the shopping journey for a reason, not the beginning.

By the time we get to the checkout after shopping, we usually poop. And we have less willpower than when we went through the door. “People are more likely to succumb to impulses when they are tired,” Burroughs said. “You could be a little less protected.”

As strong as our temptation can be at the checkout, there is growing pressure from retailers to force their customers to make healthier choices.

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“By rethinking checkout, retailers can support the health of their customers by not consuming extra calories from candy, soda water, and other unhealthy foods and beverages,” the Center for Science in Public Interest said. said. , a non-profit consumer group, 2015 report. The organization led a campaign to change the items the store sells near the checkout.
The UK’s leading grocery chain has completely eliminated candy from the checkout. Berkeley, California, USA, passed the “Healthy Checkout” Act in 2020 regulating which products can be sold near registrars. Going out: junk food, candy, soda. Contains: fresh or dried fruit, nuts, yogurt and sugar-free gum.

First in the United States, these regulations require stores to sell at least 25 square feet of health items within a close radius of the registry.

The Consumer Group said, “Berkeley’s historic actions will build momentum for future efforts to improve the food retail environment at the state and local levels.”


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