BrainTrust Query: CNBC’s Skewed View of ‘Supermarkets Inc.’
why you go to the supermarket for a quart of milk and leave with $30 worth
of other stuff? It’s no accident. The secrets behind sneaky
merchandising are found.” This blurb in my Sacramento Bee entertainment
section for CNBC’s airing of “Supermarkets Inc., Inside a $500 Billion
Money Machine” got my attention. I’m a supermarket guy, so I checked
Some might find the program’s tone condescending, but it accurately
explains various behind-the-scenes functions in grocery stores and the tight
margins throughout the industry. I saw nothing that would even remotely qualify
as “sneaky.” However, CNBC’s business editor and host Tyler
Mathisen did his best to be provocative.
“You are part of the largest and longest-running psychological experiment
in history — you are a supermarket shopper,” said Mr. Mathisen. “You’re
being watched, trailed, and analyzed in ways you’d never imagine. Today’s
best stores blast you with sounds and scents, the aroma of fresh-baked bread,
rotisserie chickens spinning over the flame, all designed to entice you to
Spooky. Please, don’t take me there.
Most shoppers are probably unfamiliar
with the topics presented in the report including electronic shopping aids,
food prep, banana ripening rooms, shelf placement, slotting fees, etc.
with industry insiders regarding store design, store electronics, impulse buying,
profit margins, and price optimization were a little off-putting.
of Buyology Inc., a Dane who said he “knows more about
American shoppers than they do about themselves,” told Mr. Mathisen that
research shows consumers buy 40 percent more with larger shopping carts. When
asked why more stores do not have larger carts, he replied, “Because
American consumers weren’t viewed any more favorably than retailers
by Mr. Lindstrom. When asked if Americans were great shoppers, he said, “Absolutely
not. And do you know what’s so interesting? They’re getting worse
and worse. Smart supermarkets can make you think you’re getting a good
deal even if you’re not.”
Jaw-dropping, shopper-savvy revelations
aside — such as dairy
positioned at the back of the store to increase exposure to other items as
the shopper treks back there, positioning key products at eye level, and store
designs that “want
to draw you back as far as they can so that they have more chance to sell you
stuff” — many of the topics covered were fresh and informative.
interesting was a segment devoted to 100-year-old Kaune’s Neighborhood
Market (“Connie’s”), a 7,500-square-foot store in Santa Fe
owned and operated by former trial attorney Cheryl Pick Sommer. It compellingly
contrasted the business practices of huge chains with those of single-store
operators. Supplied by an Amarillo co-op and local suppliers, Kaune’s
have eggs on the shelf if local hens aren’t laying due to a cold snap.
asked if her business could “hold on,” Ms. Sommer said it
our neighborhood and our clientele need us to.” No invasive electronic “lures” there,
just old-fashioned friendly service.
- Supermarkets Inc., Inside a $500 Billion Money Machine – CNBC
Neighborhood Market – www.kaunes.com
Discussion Questions: How much better are supermarkets today at influencing consumers to buy products than in the past? Where are the greatest opportunities for stores to influence purchases?