The Clever Reason Grocery Stores Often Put the Produce Up Front

Hard to walk by this nutrient-rich rainbow.
Hard to walk by this nutrient-rich rainbow. / Georgijevic/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve ever ducked into the supermarket for a single item and walked out with a cartful of stuff, you’re not alone. Grocery stores have tons of clever ways of tricking shoppers into spending more money.

For example, it’s not a coincidence that more expensive items tend to be on shelves right at eye level. It’s also not for nothing that so many prices end in 99: Because we’re used to reading from left to right, our brains basically ignore the 99 and effectively round the price down by nearly a dollar. Instead of perceiving a $3.99 bag of chips as costing $4, we’re more likely to feel like it costs $3.

Grocery store layouts are strategic, too—and there’s a reason the produce section is so often situated in the front. When you enter a store, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to fill your basket with a vibrant array of fruits and vegetables, glistening with water that makes them look especially fresh. (The frequent spray showers also help make them weigh more, and therefore cost more.) Having colorful flowers for sale up front can help magnify this overall impression of freshness.

As Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, told the Chicago Tribune back in 2010, “the produce section tends to be lit theatrically, so that everything looks better in the store than it ever will when you get it home. Almost every supermarket knows that if they can get your saliva glands working, you will tend to buy more.” According to Underhill, the bakery is typically close to the door for the same reason.

And if the first thing you do is load up on English cucumbers (plastic-wrapped for a purpose), honeycrisp apples, and other nutritious options, you just might feel entitled to pick up some less healthy fare as you progress through the premises. Grocery stores have methods of making you cover as much ground as possible, too. One of them is placing the dairy section in the back of the store, so any shopper with milk, eggs, butter, or another dairy staple on their list will have to walk past plenty of less necessary—but difficult to resist—extras on their way.

[h/t Chicago Tribune]