From Why There Are 13 (Shopping) Seasons – WSJ.com By SARAH NASSAUER:
Spring, summer, fall, winter… storage and organization? Most shoppers see the seasons change four times a year. Retailers see anywhere from 13 to 20 and all those seasons are designed to get shoppers into their stores.”Storage and Organization” comes the first weeks in January at Target Corp. It’s a chance to display products that might appeal to shoppers’ New Year’s resolutions like exercise equipment. Sam’s Club, part of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., celebrates “Fall Gatherings” in October with displays of rakes, sweaters and comfort food. Late fall at Supervalu brings the less-than-celebratory “Cough, Cold and Flu” season, not to be confused with late spring’s “Allergy Season.” In stores now: “Back to School/Back to College.”
A key goal is to get people to buy impulsively, something they do less of these days. The number of impulse purchases fell to 15% of purchases in 2010, from 29% in 2008, according to market-research firm NPD Group.
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
Last month, Supervalu employees worked to create the perfect fall endcap, the shelves that anchor the end of the typical grocery store aisle. The goal—easy meals for parents pressed for time at the start of the school year.
Problems quickly became apparent. After setting up tuna in pouches, mayonnaise, peanut butter and bread on the lunch endcap, employees saw that the tuna pouches tilted slightly backwards. The tuna “didn’t present itself well to customers,” says Chris Doeing, a director of merchandising for Supervalu, which owns chains including Albertsons and Cub Foods. Tuna was booted from the endcap to a nearby shelf.
On endcaps, best-selling items often go on the larger shelves near the floor to grab people’s attention from farther away. Employees experiment with which size and shape products look best together.
Two comments. First, this shows you that retail isn’t just a matter of selecting the right products and having the right prices. It also requires careful presentation and timing. Retailers add more value than most people realize. Second, this makes it sound a bit nefarious and manipulative when it really isn’t. People don’t always know what to buy until they see what is for sale and at what prices. Our attention is limited and there are fifty thousand products for sale at a typical supermarket. The store itself is 46,000 square feet. Well done curation, inspiring people to visualize how a product can improve their lives is good for consumers. It is also difficult to distinguish from tricking customers into buying junk they don’t need. We don’t have to assume worst interpretation by default and without distinguishing evidence. I suspect there is more money in figuring out what people will want and use. Things you use wear out and are repurchased, with the promise of future sales (if they purchased the first one from you aren’t they likely to purchase the next one too?). Tricking customers into buying they won’t use seems like a short term strategy unlikely to lead to repeat sales. At worst, I think stores and consumers can only noisily predict what products customers will actually like. A good store inspires you to buy products that that on average you enjoy and will buy repeatedly. You won’t like everything, but in some aggregate sense you like the package. I remember my uncle saying that Sam’s Club didn’t work for him, they ended up buying food in too large quantities and it went to waste at great expense. They don’t belong to Sam’s club anymore.