Do you want to spend less at the store? In Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, author Paco Underhill gives some indirect insights into how consumers can win the retail battle. Here are some easy changes you can make to help reduce your spending:

  • Spend less time in stores. Underhill writes, “The amount of time a shopper spends in a store (assuming he or she is shopping, not waiting in line) is perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much he or she will buy.” Do not browse. Shop with a purpose.
  • Don’t use a basket. Only use a basket (or shopping cart) if it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re dashing into the supermarket to pick up milk and bread, don’t use a basket. Baskets induce people to buy more.
  • Only seek employee contact if you need help. Employee interaction also induces people to buy more. Underhill notes that “the more shopper-employee contacts that take place, the greater the average sale.”
  • Don’t try samples. Research indicates that people are more likely to buy something if they can sample it first. Don’t try the samples as you wheel around the giant warehouse store — they’re likely to make you want the product.
  • Don’t examine or handle things you don’t need. The more you interact with something, the more likely you are to buy it. “Virtually all unplanned purchases — and many planned ones, too — come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.”
  • Don’t try on clothes you don’t need. “Shopper conversion rates increase by half when there is a staff-initiated contact, and it jumps to 100 percent when there is staff-initiated contact and use of the dressing room. In other words, a shopper who talks to a salesperson and tries something on is twice as likely to buy as a shopper who does neither.”
  • Avoid advertising. Advertising exists for one purpose: to get you to buy things. If you don’t want a closet full of Zizzer-Zoof Seeds and Thneeds, reduce your exposure to advertising.
  • Make a list and stick to it. The majority of supermarket purchases are unplanned. From Why We Buy: “In one supermarket study, we counted how many shoppers came armed with lists. Almost all of the women had them. Less than a quarter of the men did. Any wife who’s watching the family budget knows better than to send her to the supermarket unchaperoned.” (My wife is probably reading this and nodding in agreement.)
  • Ignore the racks of impulse items. These are high-margin products designed to make the retailer profit while parting you from your money. These are not things that you need.
  • Don’t go shopping. The number one way not to buy anything is not to go shopping. It’s obvious, but true.

Why We Buy notes another way your family can save money at the grocery store: have mom do the shopping.

Supermarkets are places of high impulse buying for both sexes — fully 60 to 70 percent of purchase there were unplanned, grocery industry studies have shown us. But men are especially suggestible to the entreaties of children as well as eye-catching displays.

In fact, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping is full of “man with children” anecdotes, repeatedly demonstrating that families should either not allow the father to take the children shopping, or that fathers should be trained to tell their children, “No!”

My next entry features more lessons from Why We Buy. Also check out my earlier review of the book.

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