Shop Smart!

Shop Smart!

When it comes to the weekly shop, there is more choice than ever and with the average family spending around £3000 - £6000 on groceries a year, there is fierce competition from supermarkets to get their share of this cash.

By having a better understanding of what goes on behind the scenes in our shops, you will be much better equipped to ensure that the choices you are making are the healthy ones and NOT what the supermarket wants you to choose!

Look Beyond Eye Level

It is important to realise that a huge amount of planning goes into the positioning of each product on the shelves; the goal obviously being to maximise sales. Research shows that we are much more likely to choose products placed at eye level than those we have to reach up for or crouch down for. In one study, US researchers tested the impact of an eye-level position on sales by moving toothbrushes from the top shelf to an eye-level shelf in 30 test supermarkets. Sales increased by 8%!

It is not just about shelf position though. Manufacturers also want the maximum amount of shelf space for their product and best-sellers will usually get this privilege. Best-sellers aren’t always the healthiest options, yet they are usually given plenty of shelf space and are at eye-level. Make sure you look both up and down before making your choice, as the healthier options may be on the very top or bottom shelf.

Don’t Fall for the Figures

Manufacturers fund price promotions in supermarkets and get such good sales increases they still make a profit. The hope is that once you have tried a certain product you may be more likely to stick with it and the store will increase customer numbers by offering low prices.

Tests have shown that promotions really do influence us, with the use of numbers enticing us most. For example, an offer of “6 for £3” sold more products than the same promotion price of “50p each”. Limiting products (12 per customer) or suggestive numbers such as “Buy 12 for your freezer” both increased sales.

Multi buy or bulk-buy deals (BOGOF) have come under criticism from some because they often promote unhealthy foods, encourage overeating and cause excess waste. Sometimes if you do the calculations, the special offers can cost more than the normal priced items.

Cut the Risk of Impulse Buying

About 60-70% of all supermarket purchases are unplanned. With special offers, attractive packaging and cleverly placed products, customers are bombarded with stimulating sights, sounds and smells designed to encourage sales.

Coming up with a strategy to overcome temptation is essential if you want to leave the supermarket with what you need rather than what caught your eye. Make a rough meal plan for the week and make a list from this. Never go to the supermarket hungry or thirsty. Have a bottle of water and a snack handy if you haven’t eaten for a while before your shop, or chew gum whilst you walk round the aisles.

Make Loyalty Cards Work

Supermarkets want us to keep coming back and loyalty programmes are there to encourage it. Whilst they are useful if you already shop there, they are not enough to dictate to us where we shop.

Make the scheme work for you and take advantage of exchanging points for products other than food wherever possible, such as Tesco’s reward vouchers which can be exchanged for three times their value on non-food products.

Some schemes will also track personal data and regular purchasing habits and then send you offers they think will tempt you. Great if it’s fruit and veg but not so great if it’s beer, crisps and cheese!

Watch Where You Queue

After observing more than 2,800 shoppers, researchers found that purchases from the range of sweet treats at the checkout weren’t always made immediately. Instead the likelihood of a purchase increased with the time spent queuing. Many supermarkets, in response to customer demand, now keep a proportion of their tills free from confectionery.

Vote for Health… with Your Feet

The main factor that determines what is on the shelves is what you and other customers choose to buy on a regular basis. Of course all supermarket stock will have been dictated in part by head office, but there is usually some flexibility at a local store level.

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