During a lecture about food, my French professor mentioned that Metropolitan Market’s displays make it difficult for her to avoid spending more than necessary at the grocery store. I too am guilty of purchasing many impulse buys at the Met, especially if I shop while hungry. The bakery greets guests at both doors, the cheese aisle sits against the entrance wall, and customers must pass the hot foods and already prepared meals in order to reach the produce, meat, and seafood. The Met creates the perfect atmosphere for impulse buys.
Grocery stores lay out products in configurations that optimize consumer spending. According to a Japanese study on supermarkets, the stores’ “primary aim is convenience to its customers” in addition to “creating a sales floor that enables customers to have significant communication with the seller”. For example, the end caps feature selected goods that receive more exposure to customers. Some manufacturers pay more for the stores to highlight their products here. Additionally, common daily foods such as dairy, meat, and seafood are located at the back of the store, so customers must pass other products on their way.
Similarly, the aisles and shelves are set up in order to maximize purchases. Stores usually place generic brands at the bottom shelves, and best-selling brands at eye level. Products catered towards kids are placed at child eye level, since children can often influence their parents’ shopping habits.
Over time, some grocery stores have purchased larger shopping carts, which encourages customers to buy more, and have made the checkout aisles narrower to prevent consumers from removing goods before purchase. Some supermarkets also play music, which sometimes makes customers spend more time in the store.
Metropolitan Market, although it markets itself as more of a gourmet, organic supermarket, still uses these methods to increase profits. They even place flowers outside the entrance to improve the exterior appearance. Like most grocery stores, they place small impulse buys and gifts at the cash registers, such as chocolates and candy.
To reduce additional spending, consumers can use the smaller shopping carts or baskets, avoid shopping while hungry, and know the layout of the grocery store to avoid unnecessary wandering, and thus unnecessary impulse purchases (although one of the famous cookies from the Met never hurts).