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Retail Marketers Attract Shoppers With 13 to 20 Seasons

This article was written by in Consumer. 9 comments.

I always wondered why stores like Target and Wal-Mart added groceries to their already wide variety of products for sale. I figured these stores were attempting to be more of a one-stop-shop for all shopping needs, keeping customers in the store longer, and providing less of a reason to go to the supermarket, grocery store, or farmer’s market.

That may be partly true, but there is more to it. In general, shoppers visit box stores once every two to three weeks, but they visit grocery stores twice as often. Not only would shoppers stay in these stores longer, if Target and Wal-Mart provide a compelling reason to become a shopper’s primary stop for groceries, they’ll come back more often. This is one way that marketers, experts in what motivates consumers, are having a big impact on how companies design their businesses.

Cadbury Egg EasterThese marketers are incredibly in tune with the minds of shoppers. They’ve created thirteen to twenty “seasons” for shopping, to ensure the products they want shoppers to buy are those that they present at any time during the year. Seasons vary, but at any point of time, there’s some prevailing zeitgeist that is perfect for marketers to take advantage of. Here are a few examples.

  • December Holiday or Christmas season
  • Thanksgiving season
  • Back-to-school season
  • Valentine’s Day season
  • Start-of-the-summer season

The true art of the seasonal display is to trick out products that don’t seem like obvious impulse buys — like vacuum cleaners or tissue boxes — in a way that makes shoppers grab first and think later. People are usually willing to spend more during special seasons, retailers and manufacturers say, especially if they are spending on their children.

One example of the power marketers have is given in the Wall Street Journal article quoted above. To sell more vacuum cleaners to college students, they requested the manufacturers design them in specific colors that college students like to see around their dorm: pink, blue, and black. The Dirt Devil vacuum cleaners are typically red, coinciding with the “devil” theme, but to sell these products to college students in a back-to-school display, they developed versions of the items with the specified colors.

Stores are continually tweaking their tactics. During back-to-school shopping season, more and more products are being included in these sales, even if their connection to school is tenuous. Stores are packaging other items together to make shopping easier. The goal, of course, with all the different seasonal displays that the directly to the mood of the season, is to get shoppers to spend more on impulse purchases. With related products in the line of view, the more likely a shopper will pick it up and spend more money.

There’s nothing wrong with spending money on items you need, but the impulse buy bypasses advance planning, shopping around, and saving money in advance if necessary. While experienced shoppers might be able to tell whether an offer is a good deal, it’s not always immediately apparent to everyone.

Marketers know how the human mind works, and it’s virtually impossible to beat them at this game. The best smart shoppers can do is to be aware of how every tiny detail of your experience in a store is designed to get you to part with your money. This awareness helps you stop and think — sometimes.

Photo: Keith Williamson
Wall Street Journal

Published or updated August 17, 2011.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 qixx

“But i needed that new [insert impulse buy here]. I just forgot until i saw it next to the [what i actually needed].” My wife and pretty much anyone in her family are experts at seeing things they did not know they needed until they saw them on display.

I think my 2 favorite seasons from the link are:
Superbowl Season – I always thought it was just one game. And often not a very exciting one.
Organization and Storage Season – Does this mean i don’t have to stay organized the rest of the year???

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avatar 2 wylerassociate

good article flexo. I definitely see that as well because when shoppers go to a store with a focus on buying just a few essential items they end up buying things that they want. That’s definitely the case when you shop at warehouse stores like costco’s & sam’s club.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

The answer to marketing is use it if they offer coupons or discounts. The anti-marketing answer is make a list and stick to it. There will always be people or organizations that have a different agenda that can derail you.

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avatar 4 Donna Freedman

Marketing is (usually) creating a need where none existed. Do college students “need” a trashcan that matches the lampshade that matches the comforter? No. But bringing your quilt from home and your old desk lamp is just so not cool, apparently.
Do children “need” new clothes for school? Only if what they own doesn’t fit. But somehow we’ve absorbed the idea that everything must be new.
Do grownups “need” to upgrade new electronics immediately? Mostly, no. But we’re easily distracted by bright shiny objects.

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avatar 5 Ceecee

If only we could go through the stores with no peripheral vision, and get only what we need at the time. Those marketers are too savvy for a lot of us. One answer is, if you don’t have a very immediate need, stay out of the stores!

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avatar 6 tigernicole86

I’ll admit, I’ve had some friends who have done store layouts and have helped decide where to put non-obvious impulse buys. They’ve asked me to come in and look. And try to resist.Usually I can, but those tissue boxes and paper towels can get to me when they’re next to the cleaning stuff!

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avatar 7 Cejay

Ceecee that is how I saved money. I stayed out of the store and I stopped looking at my magazines. I am pretty good about not buying things unless it is certain items. Then I will go on a hunt and visit 6 stores to find what I want. The layout is certainly important. We had time to kill before our movie last week (free with Coke Rewards) and went into Kohl’s to look around. THey had the chairs with the big cushions set up outside the bathrooms in a layout. Hubby sat in one and said it was so comfortable and we really needed one. I just pulled him out of the store. We would have never looked at that chair except for the layout and the location. Smart Kohls.

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avatar 8 shellye

I think the key to saving money, despite the ‘season’ you’re shopping in, is to shop at the end of season rather than the beginning. Typically these ‘seasons’ don’t last for more than a few weeks anyway, and you can save a bundle by waiting. krantcents is right though, if you can use coupons or discounts to get whatever happens to be a hot trend for that season, then go for it. For example, if you’re shopping for a new bikini, rather than buy one in May, buy one in July. You’ll still get plenty of hot weather to wear it in, knowing you saved probably 50% by waiting just a few weeks.

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avatar 9 lynn

Donna had a good point – need is created by marketers. Something to think about. I stay out of stores with the exception of a grocery store. If I go to the $ store to pick up eggs, I do just that and out I go.

When I need clothes, I go to the slothing store. In and out with the items on my list. (on sale)

Marketers may be smarter than I am, but it’s difficult to part me and my cash. They’d be earning their wages with me.

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