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Revealed: how shops encourage you to spend more money

Revealed: how shops encourage you to spend more money
Source: Getty Images

Do you ever feel like you can’t go into a shop without overspending? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

But why does it happen? Well, retailers use very clever sales ploys to encourage you to spend more money. Here’s what you need to know to help you shop smarter. 

Why do shops use marketing ploys?

The answer’s simple: they want you to buy more.

Remember, there’s a huge amount of competition out there for retailers. So, shops use various marketing tactics to:

  • Entice you into their store
  • Encourage you to spend your cash there, rather than somewhere else  

The main problem? It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz of it all, especially around the festive season. If you spend more than you intended to, you risk overspending, which means you might find yourself in debt. 

Can you really avoid these sales tactics, though? Sure – you just need to know how to spot them! 

How do shops encourage you to spend more money?

According to research by Sortlist, here are four of the most common ploys you’ll face.  

1. Store layout

Ever wondered why store staples like eggs and milk are at the back of the store? It’s so you’re more likely to buy other things on your journey towards the things you really need. 

You’ll see this tactic at aisle level, too. The research shows that stores place the most popular (and sometimes most expensive) items on the middle shelves, at eye level, whereas newer or less-known brands go on the top or bottom shelves. 

2. The scarcity effect

When you’re shopping online and you see ‘only a few left in stock’ beside the item you want, you feel more pressure to snap it up immediately. Why? It’s all down to scarcity. You don’t want to feel like you’re missing out, so you buy the item without thinking about whether it’s a good price, or whether you might get something better elsewhere. 

3. Pricing strategies

What would you rather spend – £199.99, or £200.00? According to the research, the answer’s £199.99. Although the prices are just one penny apart, there’s the illusion that you’re getting a much lower price and better value for money. The research shows that you’re more likely to buy the item if it’s priced at that psychological penny less. 

4. Large shopping trolleys

This is less of an issue if you’re shopping online, but it certainly applies to supermarkets.

The idea is that if you’re supplied with a big shopping trolley, you’ll instinctively want to buy more to fill it up. It buys into the ‘big shop’ mentality that the shop isn’t done until the trolley is full.

On the other hand, if you pick up a basket, you can’t fit as much in, meaning you’re likely to buy less. As a result, supermarkets might put their shopping trolleys somewhere really noticeable, so you’re more likely to take one of them than a smaller basket. 

How to shop smarter 

Ready to save money and stick to your budget next time you hit the shops? Here are some tips for avoiding sales ploys and shopping a little more Foolishly: 

  • Know what you’re looking for before you shop. Write a list and don’t deviate from it. 
  • Start Christmas shopping early and set a strict budget. It doesn’t matter how tempting some seasonal discounts might be, they’re never worth debt you can’t afford.
  • Shop around for the best deals – just because something’s on special offer in one store doesn’t mean its’ actually the best price. Shopping around is especially important if you’re buying multiple gifts so you don’t overextend your budget. 
  • If you only need a few items from the shop, say, a pint of milk and some bread, take a basket or carry the items. You’ll be less tempted to buy extra this way. 
  • Do you have a rewards credit card? Remember you’ll get points or other benefits from shopping in certain stores, so consider how you might use your card to save money this Christmas. The same applies if you have a cashback credit card


The main takeaway? Write a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t be tempted by discounts and special offers – unless, of course, a product you want is on sale! 

If you’re worried about overspending or you’re struggling with debt, remember you can always reach out to charities like Citizens Advice for more financial help. 

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