Supermarket Tricks Encourage Overspending

Posted on 20 November, 2012 by Kirsten Kennedy

With the threat of a triple dip recession playing on the mind of the average British consumer, budget shopping is the order of the day. Choosing own label over branded goods, cutting out non-essentials and buying in bulk to save cash are just some techniques shoppers use when doing their weekly grocery shop.

It may come as a shock to some, then, that British consumers end up spending around £30 in impulse purchases every time they visit a supermarket. As many people no longer write a shopping list, supermarkets are taking advantage of a more unstructured shopping experience by encouraging consumers to splash out on expensive items through a series of promotional and marketing tricks.

In a poll of 2, 000 shoppers by YouGov, it was found that one in three British consumers do not set a budget when they visit their local supermarket, meaning that items in their shopping baskets can build up aisle by aisle without them even noticing. Even those who have a price in mind before they leave the house can end up overspending dramatically, with the average overspend calculated at £27.42.

Of course, attractive promotions by supermarket chains can take a large part of the blame for this, as consumers are reeled in by “buy one get one free” and “three for the price of two” offers on a daily basis. These tried and tested methods have been around for so long that they have become part of the shopping routine, thus making it even easier for promotional items to end up in the trolley.

Commercial director of, Ed Boyes, reveals some of the tricks that supermarkets use in order to make their goods more attractive to the customers visiting their stores.

He says; “Supermarkets have an array of tricks to ensure that consumers leave laden with bags.

“Pumping the smell of freshly baked produce through the aisles, strategically placing more expensive items at eye level, promoting special offers and putting small indulgences at the point of sale so that customers don’t have time to consider whether they are really essential, are ploys all used to encourage overspending.”

However, YouGov warns that a lack of preparation on the part of shoppers must also be addressed in order for a budget to be properly set and stuck to. As more and more people find themselves doing overtime at their workplace or caught up with social requirements, finding the time to write a shopping list and calculate a budget has somewhat fallen by the wayside.

Mr Boyes continues; “Without a strict budget on a food shop, it’s easy to be trapped into buying products that we don’t need.

“Our time-poor society enters supermarkets without having given any real thought to what they want to cook – shopping lists seem to be a thing of the past as we have developed a culture where we just throw things into the basket on a whim.”

Of course, with the rise of online shopping, supermarkets will be finding it more difficult to entice consumers into impulse purchases. Sitting down in front of a computer with a rough plan of the week’s meals seems to be an increasingly popular way of doing the weekly grocery shop in cash-strapped Britain.

Yet even here supermarkets will manage to trick consumers into additional purchases, perhaps with large adverts showing a promotion or by subliminal advertising – who can resist a quick peek at the bakery section after seeing a large picture of a particularly tasty looking dessert on the supermarket’s homepage?

With this in mind, it is always good to remember some top tips when doing the weekly shop that will save you money in the long run.

  • Firstly, always visit the supermarket after eating, as feeling hungry will encourage you to fill up the basket with quick fix snacks and treats.
  • Secondly, having a flexible list of home cooked meals which you can assign to different week nights will help keep you on track. Trying to remember if you wanted spaghetti Bolognese or chicken casserole on Tuesday will help blot out promotions for chocolate and crisps.
  • Allowing yourself a small treat every week will keep the consumer cravings at bay, so make an allowance in your budget for that bottle of wine or cake you have had your eye on.
  • Finally, according to the YouGov results, men are more likely than women to overspend during the weekly shop – at £29.64 on average compared to the women’s overspend of £25.72. So keep this in mind when you are next in the supermarket aisles gazing at that packet of chocolate biscuits!

Do you tend to overspend on the weekly shop, or do you manage to stick to a rough budget on the whole? Are supermarkets to blame for overspending, or is it all down to the self-discipline of Britain’s consumers?

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