Sneaky Shopping Tricks Retailers Use to Make You Spend More

Those sneaky retailers have spent a lot of time and money researching shopping tricks that make you spend more money in their shops. Learn their tricks and understand how to avoid spending too much at Christmas.

For some reason, as we approach Christmas our budgets fly out the window and we find ourselves spending frivolously on food and drink, and all those other tempting retail specials that bombard us daily.  Retailers know this and ramp up all those sneaky shopping tricks they have been using on you all year.  These time honoured tactics are out to strip your wallet bare.

Enormous, eye-catching sale signs

First, they lure you in with huge signs with massive discounts (when really, that 70% discount is only on one rack, at the back of the store, with clothes that no-one will ever buy). Then, they make the sale for a limited time only, pushing you into making an unplanned purchase in case you miss out.

They give you shopping carts

If the store gives you a way to easily carry items, you are more likely to buy things. Don’t grab a shopping trolley unless you specifically are intending to buy something large. Otherwise, take a basket or just use your hands.

The items with most mark-up are at the front of the store

When you walk into a supermarket, it’s likely the first few things you’ll see are the items they make the most money from. Generally, flowers, alcohol, bakery items. Incidentally, how often do you walk into a grocery store and that smell of fresh bread makes you buy something you wouldn’t have otherwise!

The things you need are miles away

If you are just popping into the supermarket for eggs, bread or milk, a common shopping trick is to have you must walk through the entire store in order to get to them. This is intentional – you have to trek down a bunch of aisles to get to what you want, making it super easy for something else to catch your eye that you ‘need’.

You’re made to walk up all the aisles

What’s for dinner tonight? Spaghetti Bolognese? Ok, so you need to buy pasta, pasta sauce, cheese and garlic bread. All these items are very cleverly- and intentionally-indifferent aisles. This means you have to walk up and down every single aisle. Also, every store is different, so you have to trawl the store to find what you need. Ever tried to find eggs in an unfamiliar supermarket?

The profitable items are at eye height

Humans are lazy. We tend not to look up or down, so the store’s most valuable real estate is directly at eye level. They also put things at the eye level of children to appeal to them.

Samples are about more than just new products

As well as the obvious tactic of making you try delicious things that you immediately want to buy, sample stations slow you down. If you’re firing through the store and are stopped by the sample people, you’ve been slowed down. This means you look around and perhaps be enticed by other products you see around you. This is especially dangerous at Christmas time!

They play music

People who have fun spend more money. Stores often play music as it generally makes you feel good (unless it’s terrible music) and it encourages you buy more. Slow music makes you slow down. Loud music hurries you up. Classical music makes people buy more expensive things. Ironically, Christmas music can either encourage increased spending or have you running for the hills – it all depends on how and what the store plays.

They make products easy to access

If you touch something, you’re more likely to buy it. A shirt that you touch to feel the fabric, a bowl that you pick up to feel the weight. If you touch it, you’re more likely to buy it.

They make the store spacious

A crowded store is an uncomfortable store. Having to battle your way through crowds of people is unpleasant- and then it gets hot, sweaty, you can’t see everything, and you just can’t wait to leave. As a result, stores create large open spaces so that you have a bigger range to choose from, more space without others intruding, and it’s easier to spot something across to store and get distracted from your initial purpose.

They exploit every holiday

It’s amazing how Christmas rolls into Boxing Day sales, then New Year sales, then it’sValentines Day, then Easter, then Queen’s Birthday… Is there ever NOT a sale? Have you ever been to Briscoes and they haven’t had a ‘sale’?


Pretty sure you were a size 12, but found out that a certain brand you’re always a smaller size? It’s intentional, to make you feel better about yourself and buy more clothes.

Buy two, save more!

How often would you go shopping and buy three items, two of which you don’t really need, just because they attracted more discount the more you bought? Unless you genuinely needed those extra two shirts, the retailer has just won.

Friendly staff

If a staff member is super-helpful and friendly, you’re more likely to buy something, even
if you don’t want it. That guilt for walking out when the sales staff have been
so helpful and spent so much time on you. This is one of the shopping tricks a
good shop assistant knows and exploits!


There are a number of ways to avoid getting sucked into the retailer’s games.

#1. Eat before you go shopping – even if it’s clothes shopping. You will be less likely to rush decisions. And at the supermarket, you’ll definitely buy less unhealthy food!

#2 Make a list a stick to it. This does require a bit of organisation and will power, but it means you’ll spend less. If your list says a new shirt for Uncle Jack, don’t be tempted by that funny novelty mug and chocolate cigar too. And is that chocolate cake from the bakery really on your list or does it just look mighty good as you’re walking past?

#3 Be mindful of what you’re doing. Don’t go down all the aisles in a supermarket or any other store – skip the chocolate/ chip/ fizzy/ plastic aisles altogether unless you need to. Also, look above and below eye level – the best deals may not be the ones at eye level.

#4 Shop online. Compare prices between retailers to get the best deal (don’t forget to account for shipping costs). Make sure to watch out for the last minute “we thought you might be interested in this…” at the checkout. Even online, they try to get you to spend more.

#5 Put the credit cards away. A debt which lingers months after Christmas is no fun. Shop with cash instead. It really does make you think twice about impulse purchases.

Be mindful this Christmas

Most of your friends and loved ones would much rather spend time with you rather than a gadget they never use.

The most important thing when planning how to avoid spending too much at Christmas, is simply being mindful. Only buy what you need – and remember that people want your time, not presents.