How high street shops make you spend more than you should…

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retail tricks

Want to know how shops try to trick you out of your hard-earned cash? Get to know the inside tricks of the trade.

We’re all so cynical these days aren’t we? We’re wary about everything: whether it’s our food (the horsemeat scandal), our politicians (the expenses fiddling) and even our newspapers (the phone hacking).

So at the risk of increasing your levels of cynicism still further – are you aware of how high street shops make you spend more than you originally planned?

It can be easier to make us spend than you might think.

So how do they do it?

Trick number 1. The messy shop floor

Ever walked into Primark and seen messy displays with crumpled shirts and trousers – perhaps even some clothes on the floor? It was intentionally left like that. This trick sees shop assistants messing up the display to make the product seem more attractive. We might think of ourselves as independent shoppers, but we take our cues from others. If we feel that a product, say a pair of horrendous bootcut brown corduroys have been very popular, we are more likely to spend that extra second considering buying it. And it is that extra second that counts.

62% of supermarket revenue comes from impulse buying.

This trick works best with teenagers and young adults as they are more likely to make an impulse purchase and get influenced by what others are buying.  According to the Journal of Consumer Psychology, 62% of supermarket revenue comes from impulse buying.

Trick number 2. Annoyingly spaced escalators

Multi-level department stores like a large John Lewis and M&S use widely spaced escalators to encourage you to see more of the store, and hopefully buy more. If that wasn’t enough the most popular and best selling brands are placed furthest away from the escalators so that you have to walk all the way and back . Again, this way you are exposed to the most number of items. Sly eh?

Trick number 3. Smells good!

KFC and McDonalds use this to devastating effect. They direct their kitchen extractor fans out on the front street rather than the backstreet so that when you just can’t resist when you are walling by.

Trick number 4. The ‘closing down’ sale

Again, this preys on your impulsive nature. You are more likely to buy something if you feel that you are in control.

You are more likely to buy something if you feel that you are in control.

What better way to do that by advertising a closing down sale, where you feel as you are taking advantage of someone’s misfortune. Strong stuff? Not quite.

There are many stores that have been threatening to close down for years now.

Trick number 5. Queues and impulsive shopping

This is a very interesting one. Chocolates, knick-knacks and tatty jewellery all compete for your attention when you are queuing up. Keeping the British in mind (who are so embarrassed of eye contact and indulge in a spot of ‘displacement acts’ like filing their nails and checking time over and over again) you are encouraged to pick up and examine the items on the racks as you are standing in the queue. The minute you do that, the battle for your wallet is half-won.

Trick number 6. The obstacle course

The more time you spend in a shop, the more likely you are to buy from them. On a recent visit to GAP on Oxford Street, I tried walking in a straight line for more than three seconds. Fail.

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Trick number 7. The red rag to a bull

For some weird evolutionary reason, the male brain responds positively to a red price tag. A study by boffins at Oxford showed that men were twice as likely to believe that they were saving money when shown a red price tag as a black and white one.

Trick number 8. Light up. Light down

The right lighting can have a ginormous effect on sales. Ever wondered why many multi-level department stores don’t have windows? It is so you don’t get distracted by outer lighting. Light changes outside, like a sunset for example might make you realise the constraints of time and hurry you up.

So they create their own artificial lighting for different products. Lingerie lighting is soft and understated to relax the buyer. Fresh fruits and vegetables have the brightest of the bright lights shone on them to make them look fresh and appealing… even if they are not.

Trick number 9. Communicating with kids

The next time you are in a supermarket with the kids, try this experiment. When the inevitable happens and your little one throws a temper tantrum asking for a brand of cookies or candy, check where they found it in the aisle. Chances are the item was placed at their eye level. You would also find that they stocked ‘mature’ and sensible’ products alongside at your eye level so that you stopped right in front of the item. Cunning to the core!

Trick number 10. Bigger baskets

The size of shopping baskets and trolleys has increased over the past few years, just so that you keep piling stuff into it – making it easier for you to rack up a huge bill without quite realising why.

Our very simple advice: Make a list. Stick to it.