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Deb Neuman Deb Neuman
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Why I can't resist rotisserie chicken

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I went into the grocery store for milk, bread, cat food and toothpaste - and left with a rotisserie chicken. Once again, the smell of that chicken got to me and I just had to have one! It got me thinking about the many times I have left a store with items I had no intention of buying.

My first job after college was with a company called Dansk Designs. We carried high end cookware, tableware and home accessories. Part of my job was to set up displays and arrange the store to sell more. Believe it or not there is a science to this, and part of my training involved learning how to arrange merchandise to appeal to human nature.

Here are a few ways it's done.

We turn right

Watch yourself the next time you walk into a store. Chances are you'll turn to your right. Retailers know this, so they design their stores to match your 'traffic patterns.' They will place the items they want you to buy to the right of the store not necessarily the items you came in for! Enter a grocery store and you'll likely see the fresh produce and baked goods when you turn right not the most popular items. They don't want you to run in and be able to grab the milk and leave. The idea is to get you to spend as much time in the store as possible so you will be enticed to add a few more items to your cart. The milk will be in the far back corner of the store so you will be forced to pass by (and pick up) a lot of other items before you grab that half gallon!

Appeal to our senses

Sights, smells and sounds are all part of the strategy retailers use to get us to buy more. Take music for an example. I once walked into a retailer that caters to teenagers and young adults, and the music was blaring too loud for my 'older' ears, so I walked out but the younger crowd was happily shopping to their tunes! Grocery stores play music catering to their customers. They know their demographics and choose tunes that appeal to their generation of shoppers. Tunes that make us feel positive will keep us in stores longer.

I've already mentioned how the smell of rotisserie chicken makes me weak in the knees. Retailers know how to appeal to our sense of smell. Who can resist buying a loaf of bread when a store smells like fresh baked bread? I read about a baby store in Britain that adds baby powder to their air conditioning system to remind people of the way newborns smell and relax them.

We like shiny things

Smart retail architects design 'shiny' stores because we just can't resist shiny things. We associate shine with 'valuable' and 'rich.' If you've ever visited a high-end retail store or shopping mall, you know what I'm talking about. The windows gleam, the metal is shiny, and the right lighting makes the inventory shine. Jewelers and car dealers know this all too well. Sparkling diamonds and shiny new cars are hard for us to resist!

We like to imagine

We are more likely to buy items we can imagine in our lives. Smart retailers know how to display merchandise so we can imagine eating, wearing or using it in our home. When I had a product that wasn't selling, I would incorporate it into a display with better selling products so customers could imagine using it in their home. It worked!

We like to look good

Smart retailers know that dressing room lighting can make or break a sale. Overhead lighting creates shadows on our faces, which make us feel unattractive. Lighting from above can make a dressing room seem smaller and more cramped, which makes us want to get of there. Frontal lighting is more flattering and comforting, so we are likely to stay in rooms longer, try on more clothing and buy something we never intended to.

Retail is more of a science than most of us realize. So the next time you head out to pick up milk and end up with a basket full of other stuff, you'll know why!

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