Are you being sold to unwittingly?

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

I'm here to fill you in on some secrets. Secrets within the retail industry that you may very well not know about. Here is the thing, customers presume they buy clothing because they want to buy them. It’s fully their decision and no one else's. Little do they know a lot is going on underneath the surface making them buy more products then they plan.


Have you ever gotten home and realised how much you have bought and thought how did that happen? I am so guilty of this! I just went out to replace my old favourite top, how did I come home with a dress, shoes and two tops that weren't even the ones I was looking for?!


But never fear a lot of this isn't your fault, and I'm here to spill the beans on what is really going on in stores to make you buy more without even knowing it. But before I do let me say, first of all, this is from a VM perspective. I could write a whole blog post on how retail assistants make you buy more, trust me there are a lot of tricks in that too. This is about how a Visual Merchandiser can make you consume more products without even realising it.



I spent over 5 years in the fashion world doing exactly this, working with luxury designer brands justifying two thousand dollar suits, to mainstream fashion selling fifty-dollar T's. And let me tell you the tricks are always the same. Have you heard of the iceberg role? Basically, it means: 25% of why you buy is based on what you see; think the product that is visible. 75% is what is going on without you knowing it. But what does that mean?


Well, there is a whole world going on that you don't see instantly that adds to why you buy and a whole lot of people influencing it. OK, let's start with the easy stuff. Music, ever noticed how the style of music dramatically changes depending on what store you are in? In teen fashion stores it's the top 40 hits, department store is Jazz, etc. The mood of the store is set by the music and is used to draw a certain demographic in. Ever gone into a store and thought god this music is too loud? Yeah, you are like me, and we are now too old for that store. They are targeting young people who wear that style of clothing to party's or "cool" hangouts.


This also translates to any retail space, go to an art gallery, they usually will have subtle background music that is calming, this is to keep you in the space for longer and make you feel relaxed, so you slowly take in the imagery around you.


Think it doesn't have an impact? Ever walked into a store when they have forgotten to turn on their music? It is the WORST! Music is also there to make you feel comfortable, so you can talk to your friend about the clothing you are looking at and not feel like the salespeople are listening in. Music is there to engage you and keep you in the store browsing their products for longer.


Repetition. There is a brilliant trick which companies have been using for a while, and that is the Badder-Meinhof Phenomenon. Ever noticed that you see an email from your favourite store advertising there latest dress, then you walk past the store, and you see it in the window. Then you walk into the store, and it's the first dress on the rack. This is not an accident. We are working on your selective attention. If something is put on your radar you will continually see it, and you are more likely to invest in it. You didn't just happen to see that dress four times, we put it in your face four times, so you bought it. Yeah, I'm sorry.



Ok so we got you into our store with our amazing looking window showing you our latest email adverts, the music is on point, so you aren't leaving any time soon, there can't be any more can there? Oh, we have many more tricks.


Next, we have waterfront real estate. These are key spots in a store that customers will go straight towards; generally, it's the front table, front racks and the most prominent wall. That's where all the new stock goes. But it doesn't just stop there. We have reports that tell us what our top sellers are. What is going to be promoted most and what the consumer in that area usually buys. So that front face that caught your eye? We put it there as we sold 10 last week and we now that you are most probably going to like it. If not you will be drawn to it then shop the rest of the collection. That table? It has our best-selling jeans on it, but not just the jeans, no we don't want you to just buy jeans, the table has at least one outfit option, so you buy those jeans you love, then you buy the top and jacket that go with it.


This brings me to outfitting. Outfitting in the VM world is like that gloriously glazed doughnut after a 3 month no sugar diet. You just can’t get enough of it. A lot of consumers go into a store not knowing how to style themselves. That's ok! No one is really taught this stuff, you just picked it up as you get older and developed your sense of style. But trust me I am playing on the fact that you found this super cute top and are thinking what the hell do I wear with this? Oh, did you just notice the cute pair of pants behind it that would go oh so perfectly, and then that blazer which would totally finish the outfit off. Yep, I got you, went in for that top, bought an outfit… job done.



Now don't get me wrong, we aren't all horrible people trying to rob you of your money. I actually do this because I love styling people head to toe. I love giving them guidance without them realising it and making them feel great in the process. Here is the thing, I have been given the inside scoop. I saw the range put together, I know what goes together and how to style it so you look great. Why shouldn't I pass that information onto you? It makes your life easier. When you pick up that top you don't have to look around the rest of the store for the pants that go with it, it's right there. Love that dress? I've got the perfect scarf to dress it up a little. This is all for you… and the bottom line.


I could go on, there are many more tricks out there. Do you know some stores have scents? Every time you go into their store you smell the same thing subconsciously triggering you. Remember the Chocolate-Smelling 'Got Milk?!” Campaign in America. Other stores use mannequin styling to make you buy an outfit head to toe. Some large companies use multi-item discounts, so you walk out with three items instead of one, because "I got the third item free"… when really it was a discount of 15% overall. Even lighting has an effect on the mood of a store and what catches the eye. This is all part of the trade of retail.



At the end of the day, there are a lot of things that go into making you buy something even if you don't need it. As long as you are wise to the tricks you can shop to your heart's content without being tricked into overspending. My best advice? If you find something you love don't buy it on the spot. Know that other factors are influencing the way you buy. Take a photo of the item. Go for a coffee or sleep on it and when you aren't in that environment then make your decision. You may be surprised by what you end up not buying.


Lila Marie.

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© LILA MARVELL.