BrainTrust Query: Do Messy Stores Sell More?
The more things
change, the more they stay the same. Stephanie Clifford of The New
York Times recently penned an interesting report entitled, Stuff
Piled in the Aisle? It’s There to Get You to Spend More, citing several chain
retailers that are making their stores messier with the objective of selling
Ms. Clifford references Walmart’s well-documented switch from clean
aisles to "a little bit of mess" accompanied by the dismissal or
reassignment of "the top executives who came up with the cleaner-stores
examples given were Dollar General raising the height of their shelves, J.C.
Penney adding wall displays and Old Navy lining their checkout lanes with impulse
items. Dollar General supposedly increased sales per square foot to $201 in
2010 from $165 in 2007 with their increased shelf height and "speed bump" aisle
But all this is nothing new. Ms. Clifford, in fact, sees this as a
reversal from the leaner/meaner approach taken during the recession. "Stack
it high and watch it fly" was the famous mantra of Price Chopper and other
northeastern supermarkets in the ’70s and ’80s. The huge Waccamaw Pottery of
Myrtle Beach, SC is widely regarded as a very successful pioneer of both "discovery
must-have, limited-availability items on pallets around every corner) and the
big box format, also in the ’70s. During those decades it was common for supermarkets
to feature "paper drops," in which they bought boxcar-loads of bath
tissue and trucked dedicated semi-trailers around to their stores where cases
and cases of heavily-discounted product were stacked and sold from outside
the entrance to the store.
Dollar General’s increase in shelf height used to
be called "densing
the 90s when back rooms were built intentionally smaller to make selling floors
larger, direct-store-delivery (DSD) became more prevalent and the Japanese
practice of just-in-time delivery was widely adopted.
Ms. Clifford’s report
credits two "strategic reasons" for this clutter
movement. First: "After years of expansion, many retailers are halting
building plans and closing stores as sales and traffic shift to the web. That
means the main way to increase revenue is by selling more stuff at the existing
second, "same-store sales are getting stronger, so retailers are adding
back merchandise." All of this, as Ben DiSanti of TPN retail marketing
consultants was quoted as saying, is because, "If you have the temptations
there, it will lead to additional sales."
Discussion Questions: Is there a “clutter trend” at retail? Do intentionally messy stores really increase sales as a direct result?