7 Psychological Sales Tricks Supermarkets Use To Make Us Spend More. And How Not To Fall For Them Foolishly.

The supermarket trade is enormous and so is the number of marketing tricks the large retailers use. While shopping, we get often tempted to buy items strategically placed around a supermarket with only one intention — to make us buy more. But are we getting the ‘best deals’ all the time and are we buying only the groceries we came for?

Flowers And Fresh Bread

Did you notice when the last time you went to the supermarket just to buy a few items and those plastic baskets they usually have are nowhere to be seen? It is not a coincidence — they want you to get a trolley instead — a customer using a trolley subconsciously walks around the store slower and also buys more than he/she intended. What is more, the bigger the trolley you use the more you spend.

Supermarkets display flowers, vegetables and fresh fruit close to the entrance. Colourful products make us happy and we tend to spend more because of our improved mood. Once we bought the healthy options, we are more inclined to spend money on comfort foods further down the shopping trip. Another trick stores use is positioning shelves with freshly baked bread close to the door.

The Lovely Sound Of Music

Soothing music played in supermarkets is there for a reason. It makes you walk slower, it makes you more relaxed and you buy more, ultimately.

Ranker.com advises bringing your own music (BYOM), ideally with fast BPM so you go through the aisles quickly without stopping by those you didn’t plan to (just like the model in the photo no 34).

Stores want you to feel good inside regardless of what the weather season or part of the day is. Most of them have bright lighting installed and lack windows but also clocks so your buying decisions don’t get affected by ambient light or the type of the weather outside.

Location, Location, Location

One of the most popular strategies grocery chains use is placing high margin items at the eye level or slightly below. Less profitable items and supermarket-branded foods are positioned slightly higher than the eye level or slightly below that. Products popular with children are usually displayed on the bottom shelves. A store can maximise their sales by displaying items aimed at kids together with products that adults spend a lot of time browsing through before buying.

It is not a secret that certain supermarket chains charge suppliers a fee in order to display their wares in more attractive areas/shelves of the store. The competitors’ stock gets placed on less pronounced shelves as a result.

Multipacks And Special Offers, Everyday

Multi-buy promotions are an old but a clever trick stores use on a daily basis. They sell multipacks of items where an individual item is sometimes more expensive than if bought separately. The other trick that sometimes forces us to make impulsive purchases is advertising a product as a special offer while the price is the same as before. Additionally, that ‘special price’ is on for weeks on end. Those seasonal offers are plentiful especially before holidays such as Easter.

Using confusing phrases, selling items by weight one time, per item the other time makes it difficult to calculate the real value of a product (check out this little quiz at the bottom of the article). Another trick supermarkets use is displaying huge boards nearly ‘screaming’: ‘SPECIAL OFFER, ONLY TODAY!’.

Supermarkets frequently group two types of items together — chips and beer, coffee and cakes, peanut butter and bread. Items sold occasionally also get put together: Valentines cards with bouquets or snacks with beverages before The Superbowl.

The Best For Last

Did you notice that everyday items such as milk, cheeses and yoghurts are never at the entrance to the store but rather at the back of it? They are usually in the far corners of the store so the clients don’t have the choice but to walk through it to get them, picking up items they didn’t plan to buy in the process. We get in only to quickly get a few items but we end up with a full trolley instead.

Treats By The Checkout

Another trick supermarkets have under their sleeves is positioning various treats and comfort foods by the checkouts. Standing in queues at the checkout makes you look around and pick up small items from the shelves around you. Notice that supermarkets that print out weekly brochures and leaflets don’t place them at the checkout. They want you to have a look around instead and pick that chocolate bar, a pack of painkillers or a hand moisturiser.

How To Avoid Supermarkets’ Traps

Supermarkets’ customers are not defenceless, though. There are a few ways to avoid unplanned purchases. One of them is to have a shopping list in hand and stick to it. A good thing to do is to eat a meal before going shopping — that will make us spend less. While not always possible, going grocery shopping without children might help us — most likely it will be quicker and easier. And being in a good frame of mind, meaning not bored but rather focused and with full awareness, will help, too.

Other ways of saving yourself some cash and avoiding buying unnecessary items include: using loyalty cards, collecting supermarkets’ coupons and even going to your favourite store at the specific time of the day.


The supermarket sector will get more and more crowded and competitive. That will also make retailers’ tricks more sophisticated and harder to spot. Shoppers have a lot of to gain here but also plenty to look out for.

Are you aware of any other tricks large supermarkets and small stores use? Did you spot some of them and maybe took advantage of them?

Do you know about any tricks non-food outlets such as clothing and electronic retailers, use?

How do you deal with buying only the items you came for? Do you have a shopping list or maybe you use a smartphone app?

What advice would you give to those going to a mall with a small child?

Do you have any tips on how to benefit from spotting those tricks, similarly to those featured in this article?