All stores have marketing tactics to get you in the door – stylish mannequins, fancy display windows, posters shouting about all the discounts you can get found inside.
But some are so much more subtle that you hardly notice them. Take a picture of your local grocery store, for example. What do you see when you first walk in?
Most likely: Flowers. Large, vibrant bouquets of fresh flowers greet shoppers inside most major grocery stores, from Whole Foods to Kroger to New York City’s myriad bodegas.
It was no accident – there was a strategic decision behind placing those flowers.
“It’s very, very simple,” said Paco Underhill, founder and CEO of behavioral research and consulting firm Envirosell. “If you can get someone’s nose and salivary glands to work, they’re going to be a much less disciplined shopper.”
That’s right: Flowers ignite the senses, getting you ready to spend. Sure, they’re aesthetically pleasing. And as you get closer, your nose will smell their aroma, which tells your brain “this place has good stuff.”
“You’re signaling freshness, you’re signaling ‘natural’ … all the good things that make food palatable,” says Ashwani Monga, a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School.
“If I were a grocery store that’s how I’d like you to see my store – logistically, if this person could manage fresh flowers and sell them, this person wouldn’t be selling stale food.” .”
That psychological bait is just one way stores indirectly influence your behavior and encourage you to part your money more easily. (Holiday music is another effective strategy.)
Psychologists call the attribution effect – like you’re in a good mood and getting ready for the holidays, but don’t quite realize it’s the music and twinkling lights. .
What makes flowers so effective is that they are a highly profitable commodity. They may only account for 1% to 3% of total sales, but in 2019 stores reported an average gross profit margin of 47% for cut flowers, according to a report from the Association. International Fresh Produce. In other words, the bouquet you bought for $15 can cost the store just $7.50. That’s because most of the trunks sold in grocery stores in the US are shipped from South America, where land and labor are much cheaper.
Becky Roberts, florist director at IFPA, says grocery store flower scenes have been around for more than 30 years. As shoppers have become more short on time, grocery stores have evolved into more of a one-stop shop, with bank branches, cafes, post offices and, of course, florists.
The COVID-19 lockdown is particularly lucrative for the cut flower industry.
“People have to go to the supermarket which is one of the few places where they can actually still go and shop,” says Roberts. “They want things that can bring them a little bit of joy, a little bit of fun, a little bit of happiness.”
Of course, inflation is on the rise, but Roberts said she expects flower sales to remain strong even as consumers rein in spending on non-essential items.
“You might not be able to afford a $200 dinner now, or not be able to take the trip down that road,” she says. “But you can still go pick a bunch of flowers and feel like, ‘Okay, I’m still treating myself.'”