How are supermarkets designed

Shopping: More in the car again: How supermarkets entice customers

It's black and white on the shopping list: milk, eggs, butter and sausage. Maybe muesli, fresh fruit. That's it. Behind the checkout, however, the customer usually realizes that a lot more has landed in the car. Experts claim that two thirds of all purchases are made spontaneously. Consumer advocates are certain: this is no coincidence. Supermarkets tried to trick customers into buying. There is even talk of the “supermarket shopping trap” at the consumer center in Bavaria. What is the truth of this accusation?

The large retail chains employ so-called shop layouters. You plan which product should be placed where. So they tickle out one or the other percent more sales. One of these store layouters is Markus Kuntke. The trained businessman works for Rewe. He designs 20 stores a year, most recently the new City-Markt in Maximilianstrasse, which opens on Tuesday. Kuntke says: "The times when people worked with tricks are over." Today, customers can see through when they are about to be seduced. There are, however, a few tricks in the design of a market. Kuntke betrays them.

The range

Anyone who thinks that they always get the same in every store from Rewe, Edeka or other chains is mistaken. "Our goal is to build the shop in such a way that it corresponds to the customer environment," says the layouter. That is why his first look does not go into the rooms that he has to design. Kuntke looks at the surrounding area: What is there in the district? Schools, old people's homes, offices or residential areas? Who lives here Which nationalities are represented? The departments are designed accordingly: Sometimes there is more take-away food for working people like now in Maxstraße, sometimes more everyday items for the residents. Sometimes more Turkish products are packed on the shelves, sometimes more organic or cheap.

The structure

Already noticed? Almost all supermarkets are designed so that you walk counter-clockwise from the entrance to the cash register. Coincidence or Tactics? In the 1960s and 1970s, when designing a store, people went very deep, explains Kuntke. It was known that many people tend to twist to the right when walking, and that walking in this direction is more likely to draw them towards the shelves. Hence the markets were built that way. Today this factor is hardly given any importance. However: the customers have got used to it. Therefore still the same structure. In the Maxstrasse branch, too, the customer is led counter-clockwise through the aisles. If it is not spatially possible, exceptions are not a problem, according to the layouter.

The sequence of products in the shops is similar. A good 18,000 products have to be accommodated in an average market, in the small city market there are at least 13,000. Fruit and vegetables are right at the front. It is the "heart of the market," says Kuntke. The displays conveyed a bit of the character of a weekly market. “That puts people in a certain shopping mood.” The further arrangement is based on certain product groups that are adapted to people's daily routine. "If the customer is looking for something for breakfast, they should find everything at once," says the layouter. From coffee to crispbread. Refrigerated counters, on the other hand, are located on the edge because of the technical equipment.

Long aisles into which customers are forced on their way through the supermarket, in the hope that they will buy more than planned, would have become obsolete. Likewise, shelves that block the direct route to the cash register. “People don't have much time today,” says Kuntke. Everything should be simple and within reach. After all, an annoyed customer does not benefit anyone.

The atmosphere

Fruit and vegetables should look crisp, sausage and meat fresh. Customers should feel good. Then they spend 20 percent more, say experts. "If we were to put everything under neon light, that would certainly not be nice," says Kuntke. That is why he uses the light color to set accents. There are also colorful elements on the ceiling. Example sausage counter: Here the spots cast a dimmed light on the goods, red and yellow ceiling sails reflect it. Everything looks warmer than in the rest of the store. “This brings out the color of the meat better.” This is different with fruit and vegetables: the ceiling is green, and the light is also less glaring. In addition, special light filters are installed that slow down the ripening process.

Music can also play a role when shopping. Experts have found: Subtle sounds to the beat of the heart relax the customer. At Rewe, they don't take it that much. Nevertheless, the company leaves nothing to chance. The head office provides several music channels. The store management chooses: In stores where a younger audience buys, current chart music comes out of the speakers. If there are a lot of seniors out and about, oldies whisper through the aisles.

Oh yes, and then there's the scent. Baked goods right at the entrance whet your appetite. Kuntke admits: “The room fragrance is important.” So important that people in the industry are also thinking about artificial steaming. There it smells like fresh bread in the shop, although nothing is baked, or of sweet strawberries, even though they are meters away. But it is an expensive business. And a dangerous one, as Kuntke explains. “As soon as it smells like bananas, many customers believe they are overripe.” According to the layout designer, Rewe therefore does without artificial additives.

The optics

Anyone who knows the City-Galerie before and after the renovation will notice the change: Many shops were previously kept in sober white, today you walk across dark floors and reach for shelves that are barely lit. "The dark wood should underline the impression of high quality," explains the Rewe layouter. The concept can also be found sporadically in the food trade. Hardly at Rewe, however. Because it has its pitfalls: “Many people get the impression that the store is expensive.” That is why discounters in particular prefer the simple design: simple tiles, sober shelf walls. At Rewe, too, they prefer to only occasionally set accents with noble materials, explains the layouter - wherever you want to emphasize the quality of your products. With fruit and vegetables, for example.

The shelf occupancy

Kuntke is certain: "We will certainly not tempt a customer who buys price-consciously to suddenly take a premium brand." But what about the good old trick of placing the expensive branded products on the shelf at eye level while the inexpensive own brand only goes through Bending down and stretching is possible? Long outdated? No, says the layouter. But he explains the principle differently.

The customer is guided by what is on an equal footing. He wants to find what he's looking for quickly. Best of all in passing. For this reason, blocks are formed on the shelves that run through from top to bottom: all coffee pods in a vertical orientation, at another point the pasta is lined up from top to bottom. The most well-known offer, the most coveted product, is usually at eye level. The customer recognizes this immediately.

In the case of jams, this is Rewe branded goods, the inexpensive own product can be found on the shelf below. “The envelope is also much higher there, and that's where most of the things fit in,” says the designer. It is different with the chocolate spread. The branded product that is most in demand is right at the bottom. This is the only way to ensure sufficient supplies in view of the high turnover.

And then there are the nasty “whimsy shelves” near the till, full of colorful and sweet things - a horror for all parents. Does it have to be that way? There is no clear answer from the expert. But at least: You offer a till in every Rewe supermarket where the products that are so tempting for children are not available. But then there tobacco and alcoholic beverages. The customer has to decide.