5 Tricks Department Stores Use to Get You to Spend More

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
How Department Stores Make You Buy Things You Don't Need

By Maryalene LaPonsie

We all know retailers use marketing tricks to get us to buy more. Everything from the music on the intercom to the scents in the air have been carefully orchestrated to maximize sales.

Money Talks News has previously tackled the subject of grocery store tricks of the trade, and now we'll check out something a bit more holiday-related: department stores.

If you want to learn more and are up for some heavy reading, you could check out this 2001 report from Hong Kong detailing how store environments impact shopping behaviors. Otherwise, we'll make it easy for you: Here are five ways department stores convince you to blow your budget.

1. Store layout means laying out more cash

When it comes to a store's layout, nothing is left to chance.

At the mall, for example, the most appealing items may be placed front and center to convince you to walk in.

Then, on your right, you'll find some of the most profitable items in the store. For whatever reason, we are programmed to veer right when entering, and stores want the next thing we see to be something profitable.

Of course, clearance racks will be in the very back so you need to pass everything else before you can reach the discounted merchandise. As a bonus, the long walk keeps you in the store longer. And the longer you're in the store, the more purchase opportunities you can be presented with.

If it weren't bad enough stores are using human nature to manipulate us, it seems to be only a matter of time before your smartphone turns against you too. U.K. company Path Intelligence has developed technology that will pick up signals coming from mobile devices and use those signals to track shopping patterns and help businesses improve their layout and sales.

2. 'Racetrack' flooring for 'pit stop' purchasing

The Hong Kong study makes mention of racetrack layouts that lead shoppers to walk around the store with little thought to where they are going or what they are looking for.

That's essentially the purpose of the smooth linoleum floor in department stores, with carpet off to the sides. You enter the store and vroom, vroom, you're on the track. Maybe what you need isn't far inside but by golly, you are going to follow that walkway all the way around the store.

When you see something interesting, you are going to step off the racetrack and onto the carpeted floor and then suddenly feel calm, relaxed ... like maybe you'll just want to stand there for a while and see what else is available on the nearby racks.

I know you think I am making this up, but really, pay attention the next time you are in a department store and see if I'm right.

3. You'll need a rest by the time you reach the restroom

Remember how I said nothing is left to chance when setting up a store's configuration? That goes for the restrooms too.

Retailers aren't necessarily trying to annoy you when they place their restrooms all the way in the back of the store, but they are hoping you will happen to see some must-have item on your way there or back.

Again, the longer you're in the store, the better they like it.

4. Signs that imply 'sale' but really mean 'for sale'

The big sign by the sweaters may announce 2/$50, but that doesn't mean it's a sale price. We've become so accustomed to seeing sale signs on racks we automatically assume any price prominently displayed must be a special.

Retailers exploit this by advertising everyday prices. Nothing illegal -- or unethical -- about that. Businesses are generally free to promote their regular prices in the same way they do sales, but now you know to double check the original price to ensure you are actually getting a deal.

While we are on the topic of signs and pricing, let's talk about that 2/$50 sign for a moment. Stores use this pricing model because they would much rather sell you two sweaters than one. However, unless the sign specifically says so, you can typically buy only one item to get the advertised pricing -- in this case, a sweater for $25.

5. Special promotions they know you won't redeem

You've probably heard manufacturers and retailers love rebates because they make merchandise appear inexpensive, yet many consumers never get around to getting their rebate.

But rebates aren't the only game in town. Retailers roll out awesome promos that will make you feel as though you are practically stealing their merchandise.

The catch is many of their promos require a second purchase. You might get $10 in Kohl's Cash for every $50 you spend, but the store knows a significant portion of people lose the certificate or forget to use it before the expiration date. Meanwhile, Kohl's (KSS) has convinced you to find $50 worth of items to buy when you really only needed to spend $30.

As for rebates, some business owners are even advised on how to make rebate redemptions more difficult. From short redemption periods to mailing checks that look like junk mail, some businesses aren't in the business of making it easy to get your money back.

3 ways to fight retailers' sneaky tricks

Most of the tricks mentioned above work because we shop on auto-pilot. We walk into a store with the vague idea we need to get Aunt Sally a gift, and we think JCPenney (JCP) probably has something she would like.

However, that's when we hit the racetrack walkway, take a detour at the giant must-be-a-sale sign and end up at the register buying armloads of things we didn't know we needed two hours ago.

Instead, keep on task by following these tips:
  • Shop the ads beforehand and make a list of exactly what you need in the store. Don't write down "gift for Aunt Sally"; decide in advance whether that will be a sweater, a Christmas ornament or something else.
  • When you enter the store, make a beeline for the first item on your list. If you don't know where it is, stop the first associate you see and ask rather than wandering the store.
  • If you find yourself scavenging racks for something you "need" so you can qualify for the current store promo, realize you are playing right into the store's plan. My advice would be to head straight to the register at that point.
It isn't rocket science, but there is a science behind how retailers keep you in their stores. Your goal should be to get in and out as quickly as possible with as much money in your wallet as possible. In the event you do go a little crazy in the store, hopefully it is in one of these retailers that have return policies making it easy to get your cash back.

15 PHOTOS
13 Ways Black Friday 2014 Will Be Different
See Gallery
5 Tricks Department Stores Use to Get You to Spend More
Last year, to build anticipation, a handful of retailers offered sneak peeks of their Black Friday ads several weeks before the official, complete debut. The strategy was successful at generating buzz, so expect to see far more retailers doing the same this year. A few stores to watch out for include MacMall, JCPenney (JCP) and Macy's (M), which leaked its sales via its Pinterest page.
Doorbuster deals are super-cheap, small-volume deals designed to get shoppers inside stores on Black Friday (although they frequently appear online as well). But because doorbusters are so limited in quantity, they tend to run out before most people set foot inside a store -- prompting many shoppers to just stay home. But, retailers want you in-store, in the hopes that you'll make some impulse purchases. Thus, we expect more retailers to offer a handful of "guaranteed" doorbuster deals this year, meaning eligible shoppers will receive wristbands or vouchers that guarantee that item, even if supplies run out (but you might have to wait a few weeks to receive it). Walmart (WMT) and Toys "R" Us did this to great success last year, and we expect to see more stores join in this year.
Despite petitions and protests from employees, retailers are looking to stock up on cashiers this Black Friday. While that means more people will have to work extra hours this Thanksgiving, it also means shoppers should experience shorter lines and wait times in-store.
It was around Black Friday last year that Target (TGT) experienced the first of these massive security hacks, but it wasn't the last; then came Neiman Marcus, eBay (EBAY), Home Depot (HD) and more. There's no denying 2014 has been the year of the hack. As a result, both retailers and consumers will be extra cautious this year, guarding their credit card info from would-be thieves. We recommend brushing up on a few crime prevention basics and limiting the amount of times you use your debit card in public.
Despite those financial security concerns, tap-to-pay services are at the forefront this year now that Apple (AAPL) has joined Google (GOOG) Wallet in the mobile payment industry. This may spur competing platforms and retailers to offer promotions or loyalty rewards when consumers pay via their smartphone. So, be on the lookout for promotions tied to mobile wallet purchases this year.
Good news for online shoppers: The United States Postal Service has slashed shipping costs for select businesses by up to 58 percent, which may inspire more shipping discounts from retailers. But before you celebrate, the new lower prices may backfire and cause the USPS to be overwhelmed this holiday season, especially as UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX) prepare to raise their rates. Your best bet -- shop early and keep an eye on those tracking numbers.
Previous-generation streaming devices tend to see the best deals on Black Friday, but this year the market is busier than ever, meaning we could see significant deals on current-generation set-top boxes. Among the newer models to look out for are Amazon's Fire TV and Sony's (SNE) PlayStation TV, both of which debuted at $99 and cater to gamers.
There's no denying the fact that mobile shopping is on the rise, and studies indicate that consumers tend to shop more from their mobiles on Black Friday. Retailers, however, aren't investing in their mobile infrastructure; so even though more people will turn to their smartphones and tablets after their turkey dinner, your experience online will be the same as last year.
This year we expect to see no-frills 4K TVs hit well below the $999 mark. Leading the charge will be budget TV manufacturer Seiki, which broke all deal records this summer with its $280 39-inch and $429 50-inch 4K TVs. These and other Seiki screens will hit similar price-lows this Black Friday, bringing 4K technology to the masses.
Bargain bin laptops have hit rock bottom. These simple, low-powered machines can't get any cheaper than prices we've seen in years past, which range from $178 to $200. As a result, this Black Friday you're going to see better discounts on mainstream machines, i.e. laptops with Intel's (INTC) current-generation Core processors and a respectable spec sheet. Deal prices on mainstream machines have been steadily dropping since April, with deals already flirting with the $350 range at the start of the fall season.
There was a time when brick-and-mortar stores refused to price match their online competitors, but as more consumers turned to e-commerce, big-name chains like Walmart and Best Buy changed their policies. This year, Toys R Us, Walmart, Best Buy and Target will be just a few big name stores that will take on Amazon. Expect to see many more price match announcements as Black Friday approaches. And as always, make sure to read the store guidelines as not everyone will offer no-questions-asked price matching.
Despite a crash in sales, tablets are still a hot commodity and expected to sit atop everyone's shopping list this November. With growing competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft (MSFT), it's a buyer's market, which means you can expect more tablet sales this year than there were in 2013. If you're strapped for cash, Windows tablets could offer the most savings since 50 percent of Windows tablet sales this year have been Editors' Choice deals.
Traditionally, the best toy deals appear in mid December, just before Santa's big debut. However, last Black Friday week saw more toy deals than ever before, beating out every week in December in terms of Editors' Choice deals. While it's hard to predict what might happen this year, one thing is certain: If you have toys on your shopping list, you won't want to sit out this Black Friday.
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION
Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners