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Why Do Grocery Stores Change Their Layout?

By Ferdi Vol
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We all must've gone grocery shopping at least once in our entire life. And if you shop regularly in grocery stores, you might've noticed they are frequently changing their layouts. These layout rearrangements sometimes lead to confusion to find the product you are looking for. But if rearranging leads to customer confusion, why do grocery stores change their layouts?

The main reason behind the rearrangement of grocery store layout is making more profit. Grocery stores are always trying to have better grocery sales than their competitors. And the best way to do that is by changing the layout of the store. By rearranging the aisles, grocery stores are enticing their customers to purchase more.

But rearranging grocery store layout is not some haphazard task. A lot of tricks and strategies are involved in the rearrangement process. Through this article, I am going to explain to you how grocery stores change their layouts, why do they do it, and how often they do it.

Why Do Grocery Stores Rearrange Their Layout?

Selling as many products as possible is the main goal of any business. Grocery stores are no exception. Grocery stores also want to make as many sales as possible. The more they can sell, the better their profit will be.

The profit margin of grocery stores is very low.  The average net profit of grocery stores is only 2%. That means for every hundred dollars of sale, these stores only make a two-dollar profit after all the operating expenses of the grocery store are paid. So, to keep their business afloat and make some profit, grocery stores need to make a huge number of sales.

To boost their sales and maximize their profit, grocery stores convince their customers to purchase more products than they originally intended to do. And to make that happen, they make their customers spend extra time in the grocery store and entice them to make additional purchases.

And this is where rearranging the grocery store layout comes into action. The rearranging of the grocery store means both rearranging certain shelves or rearranging all the aisles of the grocery store.

Rearranging Certain Areas and Shelves

Grocery stores mainly rearrange certain shelves when a new product comes out, or a certain product is discontinued or a product maybe didn't sell that well so the grocery store decides to stop selling that product, or some well-known brand launched some hot new products. In all of these above-mentioned cases, the grocery store has to rearrange its shelves to make a place for new products.

Again, stores have to get rid of their products when they are about to expire. Rearranging the shelves allows them to dispose of these expired products.

Whenever products near their expiration date, grocery stores move these products near the entrance of the store to sell at least some of them. Because, for every product sold, even at a lower price, the store doesn’t have to lose 100% profit by throwing it away.

Rearranging Entire Departments or Aisles

Grocery stores change their entire aisles layout so that customers have to move around the entire store to find what they want to buy. Grocery stores do that because if you can find your desired product easily, you would just pick up the product from a specific aisle and check out of the store after paying the bill.

But grocery stores intentionally make it harder to locate a product because that way customers will spend more time locating the product. While customers are looking for what they want, some items might catch their attention and they might end up buying that product that they had no intention to buy before.

Not only that, rearranging the entire aisles allows the grocery store to put their best-selling products near the entrance of the grocery store to attract customers. Grocery stores also put their highly profitable products on eye-level shelves so that these products can easily catch customer's attention.

Layout Strategies Used by Grocery Stores

Grocery stores use some clever strategies for arranging their product aisles to make their customers spend more time in the store. And the more time customers spend in the store, the more they are likely to spend money on buying different things. Down below, I've listed some of these strategies that are used by the grocery stores:

1. Fruits and Vegetables at the Front of the Store.

You might’ve noticed that most of the grocery stores place vegetables and flowers at the front of the store. They place these fresh flowers and vegetables to give their customers the impression that everything is fresh and healthy in their grocery store. This puts their customers in a good mood to spend more in the grocery store.

Not only that, but these are also among the cheapest products in the store. Grocery stores design their layouts in such a way so that their customers think that the products in that store are priced lower.

2. Essentials at the Back of the Store.

Have you ever wondered why almost every grocery store keeps all the essential things like egg, milk, meat, etc. at the end of the store? This is one of the tricks used by the grocery stores to make their customers move around the store. That means their customers have to pass through tempting product displays and countless specials.

On top of that, these essential items are also placed far away from each other. Sometimes, these items are placed in such a way that you will have a hard time locating them. This forces their customers to spend more time shopping in their grocery stores. And the more time their customers spend in grocery stores, the more money they are likely to spend.

3. Grab and Go Items Near the Entrance of the Store.

Grocery stores some grab and go items like water bottles, snacks, etc. near the entrance of the store. They do that to get back the business they lost to smaller convenience stores. Customers can easily get what they require as they shop.

4. The Bakery Near the Entrance of the Store.

Bakeries are normally placed just beside the entrance of the grocery store. The smell of the freshly baked goods triggers a sense of hunger among their customers even though they are not hungry. As a result, customers might end up buying more foods from the grocery store.

5. Cooking Ingredients, and Canned Goods are Placed at the Center of the Store.

Grocery stores generally keep the canned goods and cooking ingredients at the center aisles. They do that to lure their customers deep into their store and entice them with countless discount offers and attractive displays of non-essential items that might lead the customers to buy them.

6. Banks Near the Entrance of the Grocery Store.

Large grocery stores place banks near the entrance of the store. By doing so, they make it easy for the customers to get more money that will be used in the store.

7. Special Offers and High Demand Products at Aisle Ends.

Grocery stores always put their special offer products and products that are in high demand at the end of the aisle. This allows them to lure their customers deeper and expose them to various non-essential products that the customers might end up buying.

8. Candy, Magazines, Etc. are Placed by the Register or Near the Exit.

Products like candy, chocolates, magazines, and other products are generally placed by the register or at the exit of the grocery store. Stores intentionally place these items at the exit or near the register so that customers can pick them up easily while they are waiting in line. By doing so, stores are converting the waiting time into buying time.

9. Deli and Coffee Bars in One of the Front Corners of the Store.

Grocery stores often have Deli and Coffee bars placed in one of the corners at the front of the store. The focus of these stores is to make their customers spend more time in their store. But if their customers are hungry, they are likely to hurry while shopping. By having deli and coffee bars, grocery stores provide their customers with a place to eat, drink, and relax. And if their customers are relaxed, they are likely to spend more money in the store.

How Do Grocery Stores Arrange Their Products in Shelves?

Grocery stores also use clever strategies to stack their products on the shelves. Here are some of the strategies that grocery stores use to place their products on store shelves:

1. Gourmet Brands, Regional Brands, Smaller Brands’ products go on the Top Shelf.

Grocery stores put gourmet, regional or smaller brands that are lesser-known to the customers on the top shelf. These shelves are at the eye level of the customer which helps these products to stand out more.

2. Best Selling Products and Well-Known Brands’ Products are Placed on the Second and Third Shelves from the Top.

The second and third shelves from the top are also known as the "Bulls-eye spot". These shelves have the best placement because these shelves are in the sightline of the customer. And that’s why stores always put their best, high demand, and high-priced products on these shelves to entice the customers to buy these products. 

3. Kid Products are in the Middle Shelf.

When you go shopping, you might have noticed that all the products that have kid appeal are located on the mid-shelf. Grocery stores place their kid products here so that kids can easily reach these products. And if customers are shopping with their kids, they are sure to buy some of these products to keep their kid happy and calm while shopping.

4. Bottom Shelf is for Oversize and Bulk Items.

Grocery stores place their oversized but less costly items on the bottom shelves. Customers will always hunt for these products. Bulk items are also placed on the bottom shelf because putting them anywhere else will look awkward. This also makes it easy for customers to reach these items.

How Grocery Stores Manipulate Their Customers’ Sensations to Purchase More?

Grocery stores use many tricks and strategies to make their customer buy more like putting their best selling and most profitable product at the eye level of the customer. Many customers are in a hurry when they go to grocery shops to buy products. They are likely going to buy only the products that they can see. By placing these products in such a way, they increase the sale of the product.

Or through the delis and coffee bars, they provide their customers with a way to relax and spend more time in the store. And more time equals more money spent in the store. Through their tricks and strategies, they are continuously manipulating their customers' senses. But customers won't even realize that. Here is how they do it:

1. Sight

The first sense that grocery stores try to manipulate is the sense of sight. Grocery stores always try to place their products in such a way that is eye-pleasing for any customers. This is why these stores put their premium and best-looking products at the eye level of the customer. They always put the kid products placed at the middle shelves so that they are at kid’s sightline, thus leading them to force their parents to buy the products.

On top of that, grocery stores also use color breaks to stack their products on the shelves. What that means is, they use specific methods to arrange the product on the shelves depending on the size, color, quality, and brand of the product.

For example, if you put two products that come in red color and one in blue, the chances of selling all the products will increase. By putting these products that way, stores are allowing these products to stand out more. This also eliminates the possibility of customers mistakenly grabbing the wrong product and ending up returning it later.

2. Smell

Grocery stores view the sense of smell as a potent marketing tool as it is linked to memory. Stores use the sense of smell to trigger a pleasant memory of a customer about some product, which makes the customer buy that product even if he had no intention of buying it when he entered the grocery store.

For example, many grocery stores have bakeries near the entrance of the store. The fresh smell of baked goods may trigger some pleasurable memories about some bread that you enjoyed when you were 5 and you might end up buying some bread. 

3. Taste

Who doesn’t love food? Especially free foods. Many grocery stores have free sapling booths because they can increase sales. When someone offers us something for free, it triggers an instinct of reciprocity that is deeply embedded within us. This means, when someone offers us something for free, we feel the need for giving something back in return.

When a customer enjoys free samples offered by the store, it may trigger that instinct subconsciously and he or she might end up buying that product.

4. Sound

If you have ever gone to grocery stores to buy something, you might have noticed they are playing classical music. The reason behind that is music can affect one's shopping habits. Classical music helps one to relax. If the customers are relaxed, they will spend more time shopping. The longer customers spend in the grocery store, the more they will end up buying.

How Often Do Grocery Stores Change Their Layouts?

Rearranging a grocery store involves taking products off from a shelf or the whole aisle (sometimes the entire store), deciding where to put it, and putting the product back in a new place. There is no guideline or any rulebook that has a specified frequency to rearrange the grocery store. Grocery stores often rearrange some of their shelves every few months.

For most grocery stores, they rearrange the entire store every year. For larger size stores, they rearrange the entire store every 2 years. Cities with many grocery stores frequently change their layout to stay ahead of their competition when it comes to grocery sales in the city.

Product manufacturers are also responsible for rearranging grocery store layouts. Manufacturers pay these grocery stores to put their products in a good place in the store. This is known as the "Slotting Fee".

Some manufacturers may want to put their products on display at the premium areas of the grocery store. For that, they have to pay extra. In such a case, grocery stores will rearrange their layouts even if they just changed their layouts a few days ago.

Depending on the seasons like Christmas or Halloween, a grocery store may want to rearrange their store layout. Many products are seasonal. That means that product will have high demand when the season comes. So, in preparation for new seasons, grocery stores rearrange their aisles.

That’s all you need to know about why do grocery stores change their layout. It’s quite amazing to learn that there are plenty of tricks these stores do to manipulate us into buying stuff. And we don’t even realize it. Hope this article was helpful in feeding your curiosity. Thanks for stopping by. 

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About the Grocery Store Academy
The Grocery Store Academy is a blog about everything that has to do with grocery stores. This is your #1 spot to find the right information for your needs.
About the Author
Ferdi Vol has worked several years in a grocery store and has a passion for good food. He's happy to share his passion with you!
About Ferdi Vol
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