The Impact of Impulse Buys

Flashy merchandise displays

Flashy displays contribute to impulse buying.

Retailers have long understood the importance of driving impulse purchases from customers in their stores. A recent poll in Britain suggested that targeting the right audience with select products is equally important to understand when preparing merchandising and layout strategies.

Overall Impact of Impulse Buys

Despite efforts by budget-conscious consumers to apply penny-pinching strategies, many retailers are adept at pulling an extra few bucks from consumer wallets and purses. According to the study, the typical British consumer spends over $30 per week on impulse purchases. An impulse buy is a purchase that is unplanned before the consumer enters the store. Many consumers walk in the door with a shopping list, but struggle to contend with the allure of visually-appealing end-cap displays and hard-hitting checkout items. Of course, the tears of a child often contribute to the difficulty.

Impulse Differences – Men and Women

The most significant findings of the British study were the stark differences between what men purchase on impulse and what women purchase. One major surprise was that men spent more than $40 per week on impulse buys, while women spent over $30 per week. These numbers contradict the common perception that women are the shoppers who get more caught up in emotional buying.

Big-ticket items were one of the factors driving the relatively high average impulse expenditure for men. Vehicles, electronics and high-end food items were among the items men reportedly added to their carts based on impulse. Not surprisingly, personal care, fashion and home decor were some of the categories in which women splurged. Books were another impulse purchase for women. Women also tended to make more impulse purchases for their children, including clothing and toys.

Strategic Value for Retailers

While this particular study is from Britain, and it is just one of many on impulse buying, it aligns with much of what retailers find in the United States. Data revealed from such research is extremely valuable for retailers trying to position the right products in the right locations to reach the right people. Understanding who shops at their stores and the way in which different customers move about may help guide retailers in making ideal strategic placements of products.

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Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller has been a Professor of Marketing at Des Moines Area Community College since 2004. Prior to teaching, he worked as a marketing specialist and retail manager. He holds an MBA from Iowa State University

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