Why supermarkets are laid out the way they are


Customer in supermarket aisleHave you ever walked into a supermarket where the aisles have been horizontal instead of the traditional vertical? Your brain does this immediate back flip and for a while you are disorientated as you adjust to this new alignment of aisles. So why do some supermarkets change the layout?

Is it to cause distress or is it perhaps to engage your brain by having a different layout so you actually walk up and down every aisle looking for your items, whereas before you would just know that the eggs were in aisle four and the milk was in the back left hand corner of every supermarket that was branded XYZ no matter what suburb you were in!

Now this different layout may cause angst and even aggressive trolley behaviour, however, what is becoming more common is the blocked aisle ends, whereby you have to go up and down every aisle with no way to shoot out directly to the registers unless you go through the mandatory six aisles before there is an opening. Sounds familiar to another big store, IKEA! Except there are no Swedish Meatballs, but there could be a lady with a fry pan cooking organic sausages offering them in a small white medicine cup to get you through!

What I have noticed lately is that supermarkets are getting smart and are pairing items such as eggs near bacon, and at end of the aisle there is a stand of crumpets or muffins. Quick and easy buys along with suggestive selling.

The prime location

Aisle ends have always been the most expensive to display your goods and companies pay big money to have their merchandise displayed there. How many times have you stood at the register after completing your shopping, having stuck to your list, and then you see them as you wait patiently for an item check or replacement of the paper roll at the register, the display of chocolate biscuits at half price. It’s too tempting so you scoot over to grab a packet after asking the person behind you to save your spot!

Lollies at the checkout

We always here how the lollies are a temptation to children and it is hard for mothers to control their lovely child as he or she tries to do a back flip out of the trolley to grab a Kinder Surprise, so now they have the “lolly free registers”. I believe it goes beyond children, there should be no lollies at all registers, too often I’ve looked longingly at the $1 Cherry Ripe after placing 45 items into a trolley to take out 45 items to place them on a sticky conveyor belt to then put all 45 items back into the same trolley in plastic bags that don’t hold anything heavier than a bottle of drink and a packet of flour. Of course they are there to tempt adults as well, not just children.

Food staples

Every day staples, milk in particular, is always along the back wall and the bread is in an aisle not adjacent to the milk cabinet but further along so you have to walk past three aisles and of course along the way you see “this and that” and before you know it, you realise you should have grabbed a basket as you balance the cheese on top of the bread, eggs and magazine in one hand while you strain your wrist carrying the three litres of milk.

Other tricks

Of course supermarkets want to create a safe environment where you relax and meander through the aisles, that’s why they play music that gets you humming and singing a few bars along with the subliminal ads for a coffee brand that you don’t even notice you’ve picked up till you get home and your partner wonders why you’ve changed brands!

To be honest I love supermarket shopping and have never tried online as I like to meander the aisles and always pick up much more than I intended, however, I do have those times when I need to race in and get two items and am frustrated by aisle changes making room for seasonal decorations and associated food items.

Supermarket management may cleverly plan the layout of their stores to encourage impulsive buying, however, as the customer we make the final choice. Do we allow ourselves to be trapped in calming music and brightly coloured promotional signage while meandering along the maze of aisles, or do we go in with a shopping list and stay focussed? The choice is ours.

Share this article