Why do Retail Consumers Buy? Analysis of the sales strategy

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There is no doubt today that “shopping is the central focus of human activity” (Vince). There are two types of shopping: traditional shopping and online shopping. The first involves consumers physically visiting retail stores and buying goods. The latter occurs when consumers select, place orders and receive goods via the Internet. While online shopping is a relatively new phenomenon, traditional shopping still comprises the bulk of shopping done today by people all over the world as well as in the UK. The Oxford Dictionary {1996} defines retail sale as “the sale of goods in relatively small quantities to the public” (Varley 6). Retail shopping can be defined as the process of evaluation of goods or services from retail outlets {such as hypermarkets, shopping malls, departmental stores and bazaars} by consumers aiming to buy those goods or services. It is different from field sales in that the time span is shorter, and lengthy sales presentations or processes are not involved (Vega 91). Today, retail shopping is not only a necessity that enables retail consumers to acquire items for everyday use, but it is also a leisure activity that combines delight, relaxation, amusement and the chance to spend ‘quality time’ with friends and relatives. This feeling does not change even if consumers are obliged to line up in long queues sometimes {for example, during holiday shopping}.

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Realizing the increasing importance of consumers’ patronage, retail outlets adopt several unique practices to entice them to buy. These efforts are concentrated in three directions.


Phil Kotler defines Atmospherics as “the effort to design buying environments to produce specific emotional effects in the buyer that enhance his or her purchase probability.” Atmospherics represents a new approach to marketing ideas on the foundation of psychological research. The majority of the public is unaware that they have been spending more or less time in stores, trudging slower or accelerating faster through the aisles, and purchasing items that have no concrete value to them because their unconscious mind is being told to make decisions contrary to that which they desire. Atmospherics create an illusion that stores try to sustain throughout the retail consumer’s shopping experience (Walsh). Storeowners attempt to influence consumers by creating an alluringly innovative store layout – such as controlled lighting and close proximity of parking – to turn the store into a sort of neutral zone and the shopping experience into an out-of-the-ordinary one, with the aim of disorienting the customer and provoke him or her into making purchases largely based on {induced} irrational decisions.

Store interior décor and product selection/layout


“Display windows”, says Dan Frering of the Lighting Research Center {LRC}, “create visual interest and make the merchandise stand out from the background.” Retailers adopt revolutionary lighting methods such as the hugely popular Light-Emitting Diodes commonly known as LEDs which 84% of consumers call ‘eye-catching” (Lighting Research Center). The overall target of the store owners is two-fold: on the one hand they manage to save a sizable part of their electricity bills, while on the other the innovative lighting highlights their products, enhances the reputation of the store, while also achieving the most important thing: attracting customers to their ‘extraordinarily’ lit shopping environment.

Wider Aisles

Paco Underhill disclosed about the ‘butt brush’ factor which influences retail consumer behavior inside a shopping environment (Vince). It is a proven fact that people are not comfortable in cramped places. The discomfort turns into irritation if, while negotiating a narrow aisle inside a store, a retail customer {especially females} is bumped from behind by sales persons or other shoppers. The irritation translates into loss of patronage because the customer becomes offended and will not shop at such a customer-unfriendly store again. Store owners therefore are careful to avert such a negative reaction by making sure that wider aisles exist in their inner environment.

Male containment

Women, the undoubtedly the primary buyers in the market place, frequently go shopping with their husbands or boyfriends. They need an area, within the shopping environment or adjoining it, to keep their men passively restrained while they shop. Wise store owners attempt to do this by providing a room is provided with a big screen T.V that shows the latest sports events, or locating the store chosen to be next to a Radio Shack or Circuit City (Walsh). The store owners achieve a three-fold target by doing this: firstly, the primary buyers are free from male interference {males are notoriously against prolonged shopping}; secondly, the primary buyers have no shrewd male eyes checking their spending; and lastly, the males are kept comfortable and happy, so will not be averse to venture out with their ladies in the direction of the store in future.

Pleasant odor and sound

Research has clearly indicated that contemplative retail consumers {those who do not generally make unplanned purchases} spend more money when a pleasant odour exists in the background. However, impulsive consumers {those who make unplanned purchases very often} tend to spend more when pleasant music is played in the background, as they get turned on by music that enhances their emotions. Retailers attempt to influence contemplative customers by diffusing a citrus scent at regular intervals {usually 6 minutes} through devices throughout the stores (Rutgers). For impulsive consumers, business owners use the “piped-in music” system (Walsh). The overall achievement is that the store owners here make shrewd use of external aids to satiate the two crucial human sense organs so that a two-fold target is achieved. Firstly, the customers enjoy their shopping experience; the contemplative customers still go about making their purchases meticulously, but their normally sharp {detrimental to the store} shopping senses are pleasurably dulled by the pleasant odour clouding them; and the impulsive customers continue on their sprightly shopping spree, humming and swaying to the music that enthralls them. Secondly, the store is benefitted in two ways: substantial sales to such customers, and the assurance that the customers are satisfied with their shopping experience and will definitely come back for more.

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Proper selection and display of goods

Since supplying a significant and interesting product variety is vital towards attracting and retaining customers, product varieties need to be managed, extended, developed, and tailored to suit the changing customer requirements (Varley 15). It is a proven fact that the very essence of retail shopping {as opposed to on-line shopping} comprises vital visual and physical contact with the merchandise. Wise store owners satisfy this vital requirement by first of all choosing the appropriate products from manufacturers, and secondly, by arranging the products in such a way that they are not only clearly visible from all angles in a well-lit store interior, but also are within easy reach for physical examination by discerning clients.

‘Test and try’ facilities

Retail shopping is a ‘contact’ sport because shoppers want to experience the product they are considering. Storeowners attempt to influence retail consumers by providing ‘trial rooms’ where consumers can try clothes and view themselves from all angles in 3 way mirrors. ‘Testing’ areas are also provided at appropriate counters where consumers can try out products like lipsticks and makeup, while fitters made available to provide clothes alterations (Walsh). These facilities overcome a very important and frequent problem that customers face, namely, on reaching home and trying out or testing the product at leisure, they reach the conclusion that they did not ‘try’ or ‘test’ the product as well as they should have done. This in turn spawns two adverse reactions: the customer becomes angry with himself or herself and this anger is unfairly projected on the store, making it the guilty party in the whole unsavory experience.


Business owners attempt to influence consumers by having handpicked employees who are well-trained in concepts like qualifying the potential customer, evaluating the possibility, explaining features and benefits, coming up with solutions or suggestions and ultimately winning a pledge to purchase (Vega 92). Apart from the sight and touch factor which differentiates retail shopping from on-line shopping, interaction with salespersons is another vital necessity of retail shoppers. By providing extensive and proper training to their salespersons, wise store owners ensure that all customer queries are satisfactorily answered. The psychological set up of the consumers is the key in this case and this prompts certain unique shopping behavior patterns. For example, women consumers tend to buy only after a lengthy enquiry about the product and/or after-service. On the other hand, men rarely ask salespersons for help and are content to make up their minds independently if product information in the form of catalogues and brochures are readily available next to the products. Teens are assertive shoppers and shrewd salespersons {preferably young in age} subtly encourage their preferred assertiveness as they go about selecting products.


The expected function of the retailer today has changed from being an inactive distributor to an active middleman, a role more emphasised among UK retailers ever since the resale price maintenance legislation was abolished in 1964 (Varley 6). It is no wonder, therefore, that the retail sales industry has turned into a massive one. In the UK during 2004, the yearly turnover of non-food retail stores specialising in clothing was £ 29.72 billion, followed by £ 11.82 billion for electrical goods, £ 9.34 billion for furniture and lighting, and £ 4.34 billion for footwear and leather goods (Varley 5). The blossoming retail sales figures project a three-fold message. Firstly, the retail industry {particularly in the UK in the wake of its revolutionary 1964 legislation} is moving ahead at the right pace and in the right direction. Secondly, the satisfaction of the retail consumers has undoubtedly reached excellent levels. Lastly, despite the hustle and bustle of the world today characterised by an increasingly fast-paced modern environment, retail shopping continues to attract people and continues to hold on to its undisputed status as the premier shopping preference for all categories of consumers.


Title: Why do Retail Consumers Buy?


  1. Retail shopping involves evaluation of goods or services with the aim of buying them.
  2. Retail shopping today is not only a necessity but also a leisure activity.



  1. It is a new approach to marketing ideas based on psychological research.
  2. Interiors are designed to produce emotional effects that enhance purchase probability.

Store Interior Décor and Product Layout:

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  1. Proper lighting especially with cost saving LEDs benefits all.
  2. Wider aisles reduce ‘butt brushing’ embarrassment otherwise faced by consumers.
  3. Well equipped male containment areas keep men busy, enabling their women to shop well.
  4. Stores introduce pleasant odors and music for contemplative and impulsive customers.
  5. Proper selection and display techniques enable consumers have better ‘eye contact’ with goods.
  6. ‘Trial’ rooms and ‘Testing’ facilities enable consumers to be fully satisfied with purchases.


  1. Employees are well trained in several concepts covering sales to customers.
  2. Employees must understand that consumers act in unique ways in certain circumstances.


  1. The retail sales industry is a massive one generating excellent annual turnover.
  2. Retailers today are empowered by favourable legislation to assert themselves forcefully.


“LED Lighting Saves Energy, Attracts Shoppers to Retail Windows.” Lighting Research Center. 2005. Web.

“Smell & Sound Key to sales, Says Rutgers-Camden Marketing Research.” Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey. 2005. Web.

Varley, Rosemary. “Retail Product Management: Buying & Merchandising.” UK: Routledge. 2001.

Vega, Charles D. “1001 Professional Sales Tips.” Canada: Trafford Publishing. 2002.

Vince, Juliano. “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” Uconn.edu. 2000. Web.

Walsh, Brian. “Media Literacy for the Unconscious Mind.” The Journal of New Media & Culture. 2002, Vol. 1, No. 1. Web.

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