December is peak shopping season, thanks to the traditions of gift giving during Hanukkah and Christmas. Most holiday shoppers know to be wary of the sale and the shopping mall. Sales aren’t always what they seem — department stores will often mark prices way up, only to “slash” them for a big promotion. But actually, everything about the shopping mall is designed to draw you in, slow you down, and get you to spend big bucks.
Those branded, reusable shopping bags are not only cheap and easy ways to advertise for a store, but they also provide a void that needs to be filled with product. The colors, sounds, smells of the mall food court and layout of the mall (and the stores within the mall) are all perfectly tailored to trick your senses into feeling something your body and mind wouldn’t feel otherwise. Heck, even those free cups of hot cocoa have a nefarious purpose!
So as you prepare to hit the road and head toward the mall, consider these 15 secrets shopping malls don’t want you to know.
Those massive Ikea bags and shopping carts at the front of TJ Maxx aren’t just there to help make you’re shopping easier; they also make you buy more. According to Market Watch, big bags and shopping carts leave a void that needs to be filled. You still have space at the top of your tote. Why not top it off few small items?
The malls are a madhouse, thanks to those huge red sale posters in store windows tell you that the store is having deals, and the bright hue makes you feel like those sales are aggressive and prices are low, Shopify reports. But even if the sign says “50 percent off!,” look closer. It’s probably only up to 50 percent off. The reality inside the store is that most items are not deeply discounted and many aren’t even on sale at all! But you were drawn in, and you at least feel like you’re getting bargains, even if you’re paying full price.
Clearance items are a genuinely good deal, with out-of-season items marked down to actual low prices. But good luck getting to the clearance section; it’s in the way back of the store in a hard-to-find spot. Retailers are betting that you get distracted by “sales” and new trends on your way to those deep discounts and that your hands will be too full with other items to comfortably shop the clearance rack. Once you get to the clearance rack, it’s messy on purpose to make you want to get away from that section as quickly as possible.
alls use many of the same schemes as Las Vegas casinos to make you lose track of time. Try to find a clock or a large window the next time you’re at the mall — you’ll be hard-pressed. Fewer clocks and windows mean you’re less likely to know what time it is, and you’ll spend more hours inside the shopping center.
Hues from the warm side of the color wheel — reds, oranges, and yellows — draw customers in to a store, so you’re likely to see signage and lights in these shades outside of retailers. But once you’re inside, cool colors — blues, greens, and purples — relax you and inspire you to take your time (and spend more money).
Americans are right-dominant, and you know stores take advantage of this. Most customers will turn to the right when entering a store, so retailers will put their most profitable, pricy, and trendy items to the right.
You may think that fresh java from the best coffee chains and free chocolate are just nice touches for the customer experience, but nope, they make you spend more. According to Money, eating just one piece of free chocolate when shopping makes customers more willing to buy big ticket items such as laptops, watches and designer clothing.
You need a new white button down shirt for work. You walk into a store and see a designer shirt for $99. There’s a similar, slightly cheaper white button down next to it for $75. Customers will be more likely to buy the cheaper shirt, feeling like they get a better deal. It’s called the “compromise price effect,” and it’s used to make customers buy more profitable merchandise while feeling like they got a better deal.
You may think you’re getting undersold or slightly damaged designer merchandise at outlet shops, but think again. According to Vox, outlets sell items made by third party vendors specifically for outlet stores about 85 percent of the time. So, while you may be getting a coat with Michael Kors’ name on it, the item was made with lesser-quality fabrics, was likely not designed by the Michael Kors team and was never sold at a higher price.
The mall parking lot is an intimidating, massive mess with few markings for a reason: It confuses you, intimidates you and makes you spend more time inside the mall. You’re near the end of your shopping day, but just the idea of hunting for your car exhausts you. So what do you do? Perhaps you go grab a drink from Starbucks' secret menu or you head to the best mall food courts in America for a bite to eat. Maybe you wander the stores for a bit longer. You’ll do anything to avoid finding your car, though.
Items that retailers really want to move are placed at eye level and on endcaps. It’s the one of the same tricks supermarkets use to make you spend more money. People will be more swayed to purchase items that are right in front of their faces. There’s also an eye level for children. The season’s hottest toys and accessories will be placed on lower shelves to encourage kids to beg their parents for whatever this year’s big ticket item may be.
Loud, fast-paced music makes people move quicker, including in retail spaces. So of course, shops will play slower, medium-volume music to encourage customers to take their time shopping and meander through the store. Higher end places will play classical music, and for good reason. It encourages you to spend more money and make bigger purchases.
Hey, does the kitchen section smell like freshly-baked cookies? That’s not in your mind. Subtle scents in stores will make you more likely to buy certain items. So if an appliance store smells like baked goods, you’ll think of the kitchen and be more likely to buy an oven or fridge. If an outdoor goods store smells like a campfire, you’ll be encouraged to go ahead and buy that new tent.
Tactile experiences are important for making purchases. If a cashmere sweater is on a rack high up, you’re less likely to buy it then if it’s on a table display where you can touch and feel the item. Stores put items they want to move at arm level.
It’s called the “left-digit effect,” and it works insanely well. No matter what you know, if you see an item that’s $24.99, it will feel like it costs $24, not $25. You see that 4, and your mind runs with it. This pricing is even more effective at barrier levels. Something that’s $199.99 seems cheaper than something that’s $201, even though they’re essentially the same price. Of course, no trip to the mall is complete without lunch out. So be sure you know the secrets restaurants don’t want you to know.
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