Why do we shop in cluttered, messy stores that we hate?

9 Apr

The New York Times has an article called “Stuff Piled in the Aisle? It’s There to Get You to Spend More” (feel free to click the link, I’m pretty sure articles that you click through from a blog don’t count as part of you twenty for the month, damn paywall…) that says that while customers prefer shopping in neater, more organized stores, they actually spend more in messy stores.

Stephanie Clifford, the author, explains it this way:

“After the recessionary years of shedding inventory and clearing store lanes for a cleaner, appealing look, retailers are reversing course and redesigning their spaces to add clutter.

Dollar General is raising the height of its standard shelves to more than six feet; J. C. Penney is turning its empty walls into jewelry and accessory displays; Old Navy is adding lanes lined with items like water bottles, candy and lunchboxes; and Best Buy is testing wheeling in bigger items, like Segways and bicycles, to suck up the space created by thinner TVs and smaller speakers.”

I'm assuming that even Wal-mart would admit that this situation has gone too far.

Although I like the neat and clean look myself, she almost had me at Segways…  Towards the end, Borders was guilty of the same practice.  Every week, more and more stuff came into the store.  Not book, stuff.  Like piles of kids toys and games that didn’t fit on our (book)shelves that we would have to stack in the middle of the floor or glitter balls (giant bouncy balls filled with glitter) that we were told we had to bounce all day as we helped customers.  (Although this was the strangest instruction that I’ve ever received, it was a lot of fun.)

Wal-Mart, a store well known for its “stacks of crap all over” version of merchandising, tried to clean its act up in the last few years, focusing on cleaner lines and aisles.  Speaking about Wal-Mart’s customers, “They loved the experience,” William S. Simon, the chief executive of Wal-Mart’s United States division, said at a recent confer-ence. “They just bought less. And that generally is not a good long-term strategy.”  So, Wal-Mart’s moving back to crap in the aisle.  And a bunch of other stores are following their lead.

As one commenter responded to Mr. Simon’s comment, “I guess that says it all. The stores are adopting the airline business model: Improve your bottom line by making your customers miserable.”  (Flying is the only time that I appreciate being so short.  Everyone else complains, but I really haven’t noticed a lot of the changes.  My feet barely hit the floor anyway.  Still, bring back the peanuts!)

But, my favorite comment of them all was this: “I love all these New York Times readers sniffing that they, of course, would prefer a cleaner store, so therefore the Wal-mart execs should cater to their preferences. Get it through your skulls, people: if you’re reading this, you are probably not their target market. Go back to the Apple store and let them run their business!”  Generally, true, but I read the Times regularly (although maybe note anymore… paywall… grr…), and I purchased my new TV at Wal-Mart over the holidays.  ($198 for a 32” flat screen.  By far the best price I could find.)  And, you know, I did hate the experience of going to Wal-Mart to get the TV.  And, I hated myself for doing it.  (I know, it’s cheap because we pay for it in our taxes.)  But, I do love my TV.

Also, can I be a terrible snob and direct you to People of Walmart?


MaggieCakes is a blog about culture, social media, and what’s new in the world of Internet culture. Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. MaggieCakes is hosted by WordPress and often draws upon Slate, Jezebel, The Hair Pin, and SocialTimes for links and inspiration. My post Social Media and the Art of Storytelling was featured on freshly pressed, bringing a while new readership to my blog. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

One Response to “Why do we shop in cluttered, messy stores that we hate?”

  1. Kathleen April 9, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I wonder if the stacking-of-crap makes people feel like they’ll score. My mom is On fire! at TJ Maxx, e.g. She makes me rifle through every single blouse/dress on the rack; that’s how one discovers the bargain Ralph Lauren or Jones New York. Good for her, but I’d prefer to pay more to just walk into a store and find the blouse.

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