How Stores Get You to Spend More Money During the Holiday Season

By Randall Orser | holiday season

The Christmas Holidays are the most expensive time of the year for most of us.  After buying gifts for family, friends, clients, Secret Santa exchanges and others, we are left with huge credit card bills or empty bank accounts.  Although this is the season of buying retailers make it even harder on our wallets by employing a number of tricks and techniques to get us to part with even more of our money.

 1.   Deceptive Pricing and Clearance Pricing - Our minds are focused on saving money so if we see an item priced at $19.99 but reads was $39.99, it seems like a great deal and we are more likely to buy it because our brains are wired to feel that we are getting something for nothing.   An identical item priced at $19.99 will not sell as well because it is not seen as a deal.  In 2016 some American stores were sued over the deceptive practice of marking up the price of merchandise just to mark it down again so don’t always believe what you see, there is a good chance that the item is $19.99 all year.

2.   Designing the Store Layout to Maximize Profit - Retailers spend a lot of money researching and planning the best layouts for their stores to encourage you to put the most profitable items in your shopping cart.  Items placed at eye level are most likely to earn the most profit margin for the store as opposed to those on the bottom shelf.

As most people are right-handed and will reach for an item with their right hand so stores will put eye catching displays to the right of the entrance to their store.  These will either be high margin items or items that they want to move quickly.  A good shopping strategy is to veer left when you go into a store and check out the top and bottom shelves where you might find better deals.

3.   Ending Almost Every Price with a 9 - This is a psychological trick that most of us fall for.  $199.99 is a lot more attractive price than $200 even though there is only a cent difference.  People focus on the first digit in the price, 1 being less than 2.  Once the price jumps to $200 it is seen as being between $200 and $300 even though again it is only a cent difference.  We need to train ourselves to see $199.99 as over $200 as that is what it will be once taxes are added.  

4.   Helping Customers get into the Mood to Spend - You may already have Christmas overload with all the smells, sights and sounds that get you into the festive spirit.  Retailers want to make sure that you stay in the mood to give gifts and set up their stores with bright red and green, cheerful colours and lights, holiday music and even offer mulled wine.   When restaurants are busy, they want you to leave quickly, so one trick is to switch up the festive music for something more aggressive and increase the volume.  Tip – ignore the sensory overload, make a list and keep to it, get in and get out!

5.   Specially Packaged Gift Sets and Bundles can Cost More - Stores love to put together gift packs and sets which makes it easier for shoppers.  Beware! you are not always getting the best value for your money.  The cost of these bundles can be greater than buying the items individually, so make sure you are getting a deal before buying a gift set.

6.   Placing Lower-Priced items Next to Expensive Items – this will get you to compare items that appear similar but are different.  By putting a less expensive item next to an expensive one it looks like a steal, but the store could actually be charging more than their competitors.

7.   Offering Double-up Deals that You Don’t Need but Find Hard to Resist – “Buy One Get One Free” is something that is difficult to resist but sometimes taking that deal is false economy.  You may think that you are getting something for nothing, but you need to be aware of the price of the item in other stores.  You may not have to take the deal to get a good price on the item that you originally wanted.

8.   Providing Easy Credit Options -  Retailers know that customers cannot always pay for big ticket items so they offer you credit so that you can spread the payment over time without interest, but you can be sure that their profit margin is built into this.  Customers need to be sure that they are able to pay within the interest free period because the debt will eventually become due and all the interest accrued will be added.

9.   Making Clearance Items Harder to Find – Most stores have an aisle or “end cap” for their sale and clearance items.  In December these clearance items become harder to find meaning that customers have to search for them.  Retailers know that in the frantic rush to get gifts most people will be willing to pay full price.

10.  Offering Customer Incentives – Many stores offer free gifts with purchase you will see many of these at the cosmetic counter.  If you spend a certain amount of money you will get a free gift which encourages those who would not normally buy to put their money down.  Other incentives include coupons and discounts.

Despite using these techniques to encourage you to part ways with your money, stores are not trying to be dishonest.   They are just trying to get you to spend more, thereby increasing sales and keeping their staff employed.   Just be aware of these tricks and you will be able to do your holiday shopping without spending too much.

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About the Author

President/CEO Number Crunchers® Accounting Inc. Learn how to just say stuff it to this bookkeeping thing with our 'Just Say: "Stuff It" To Bookkeeping program.