Are You Falling For Supermarket Spending Tricks?

Have you ever emerged from a supermarket bemused at the amount of your bill? Have you ever been perplexed at how you ended up with a full cart when you only intended to buy a few essentials? If so, you’re probably not alone.

For years major grocery stores and supermarket chains have been implementing marketing techniques designed to encourage shoppers to spend more. Everything from the layout and design of the store to the placement of products is usually well through through by a team of advertising experts in an attempt to entice and pressure consumers into overspending on things they don’t really need.

If you are guilty of buying non-essential items or regularly going over your budget and winding up in debt then here are some common ‘supermarket psychology’ marketing tricks that you might be falling for.

Product Placement

Notice when you enter the store you’ll usually be met with flowers, baked goods, fresh produce and some of those too-good-to-be-true offers (we’ll come onto those later). This is all designed to entice your senses with color, sweet smells and positive vibes thus putting you in the mood for spending.

If you look at the shelves you will notice that the most expensive branded goods tend to be in the middle at eye level and easy to spot, while cheaper alternatives will be up top or lower down – anything aimed at children tends to also be at their eye level. The daily staples such as bread, milk and eggs will be located at the middle or back of the store so consumers literally have to pass by a range of other products to get to them.

Store Design

Most stores are generally set out in a counter clockwise aisle system. This is not a coincidence. Restricting consumers in narrow aisles means that they are more likely to make quick, impulse buys, fearful of holding up the people behind them. You will notice that checkout lines are even narrower – thus allowing there to be more stations and also pressuring any shoppers to stay in line even if they have a change of heart regarding a product at the point of payment.

And if you noticed that trolleys and carts are getting bigger, don’t worry – you’re not shrinking. Studies show that our brains are wired to view full larders, refrigerators and trolleys as a pleasing and reassuring sight. The bigger a cart, the more likely you are to fill it so instead opt for a basket.


We all like to think we’re getting a bargain, right? Supermarkets know this and often play on it in order to make their offers sound much more lucrative than they usually are. 2-for-1 offers, for example, are only beneficial to consumers if there are significant savings to be made – otherwise you are just bulk buying. Other multi buy offers work the same way.

You may also find certain products being advertised as ‘special’ or ‘top’ deals when they haven’t changed price at all. Don’t take offers at face value, instead check the original prices in order to see if you really are getting a good deal.


Supermarkets want you spend as much time as possible in them and create a pleasing ambiance through good lighting, music and even coffee shops and cafes. Remain focused and stick to your timescale as well as your budget. The longer you spend browsing the more likely you are to spend.

Bad Shopping Habits

Ultimately, not everything is down to the supermarket. We make our own shopping choices and have to be responsible for our actions. Bad shopping habits usually include shopping without having done a home inventory first and buying things we may not necessarily need.

We may also shop when we are hungry – studies show that this makes us even more susceptible to the temptation of certain product placements. We also tend to opt for convenience food such as pre-prepared vegetables and ready meals which aren’t good value for money.

If you are dedicated to a frugal lifestyle then watch out for these tricks and your own shopping habits in order to shop wisely. As ever, coupons and discounts can also help you make those essential savings.

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