Short and tall tales of supermarket design
BEING extremely short won’t help you at the theatre, the footy or on a basketball court, but it just might save you money at the supermarket.
Tall people, too, can save at the shops thanks to the retailers’ mantra of “eye level is buy level”, that puts their most profitable products right in front of consumers’ faces.
Looking high or low on the shelves can be a good way to grab cheaper groceries, say shopping specialists, but they warn that other factors also come into play.
MyBudget founder and director Tammy Barton said there was nothing accidental about how supermarkets were designed.
“There’s a whole field of research dedicated to supermarket merchandising and taking advantage of consumer behaviour,” she said.
“Cheaper products are rarely at eye level – you need to be willing to bend your knees or crane your neck, which is where you’ll often find bulk items that have a lower unit cost.”
Ms Barton said her favourite place to shop was at home. “I do my grocery shopping online where I can set the items to display by unit price. By doing that, I’ve discovered cheaper brands that I can’t remember seeing on the shelves,” she said.
The word “special” can be a trap at eye level, as retailers may only offer a tiny discount on expensive products.
Consumer psychologist and Deakin University senior lecturer Paul Harrison said researchers had studied shoppers’ emotional responses to words such as “special”.
“It plays into our subconscious and we think it must be good,” he said.
“When they see the word ‘special’, what tends to happen is the emotional part of the brain – the less-controlled part – tends to respond first, as opposed to the rational brain.”
Dr Harrison said shoppers did not need to try to find the biggest bargain for every item.
“One person’s bargain is another person’s cheap product,” he said. “You can’t put effort into everything, so pick your battles.
“The brands that pay the most money for premium placement are the ones you will be drawn to first.”
Trolley Saver founder Sam Lee said premium brands might have the biggest discounts because they were the most expensive items, but you should check a product’s unit price – its cost per 100g, 100ml or other measurement – to make sure it still offered value.
“Home brands and cheaper products are placed on top or bottom of shelves,” he said. “It’s definitely worth checking the bottom shelf as the price may be still better than the heavily discounted specials.”