Study Considers Checkout Pushers and Pullers

Discussion
Jan 09, 2009

By George
Anderson

A new research
report suggests that retailers’ approach to merchandising the checkout
area may be wrongfully assuming "the cart is before the horse," as it
were.

According
to Relevation Research,
the typical grocery store has designed the checkout to display products
to consumers who push carts through the lane. The reality of the situation,
however, is that nearly three-quarters of shoppers step in front of the
cart to place items on the conveyor while pulling the cart along.

"The
front of the store is a department, accounting for one percent of sales
or more," said Nan Martin, Relevation co-founder,
told AdAge.com. "It’s designed for consumers to make impulse
purchases as they push through. If you’re pulling, your back is to the
merchandise most of that time."

Cart pullers,
according to the study, tend to be more impatient about the shopping experience
compared to pushers. Caucasians are also more likely to be pullers while
Hispanics are more than twice as likely to be pushers.

The survey
involved observing single shoppers to avoid "the child factor."
Parents shopping with children, the researchers observed, are more likely
to push the cart through the checkout to reduce the chances of kids acting
up.

Discussion Questions: How important is the
sale of items merchandised at the checkout to the bottom line performance
of supermarkets? Is
it time to look at new ways to merchandise at the front end? Are there
stores doing interesting things that you think are worthy of emulating?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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8 Comments on "Study Considers Checkout Pushers and Pullers"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 4 months ago
Checkout lanes have changed drastically in the last 10 years and we have seen things like checkout lanes not stocked with candy so parents can leave the store with an un-sugared child, self checkout lanes with no humans or products whatsoever, checkout lanes littered with gift and phone cards and of course the staple magazine titles such as The Enquirer and The Globe. This section of the store is really the last impression the customer has on the brand. If they have to wait for an unreasonable amount of time or they are presented with products that make their children crazy, it can have an overall negative effect on the whole shopping experience. Do we really make money at the till? I asked a client to ask her cashiers to suggest batteries at the checkout. Regardless of if they said yes or no or what their demeanor was or what they were buying, they were to ask a simple question: Do you need any batteries today? Over the first weekend, we saw an average of… Read more »
Peter Fader
Guest
13 years 4 months ago

This whole article is “bass-ackwards.” The main question here shouldn’t be “how much impulse stuff can retailers sell at checkout?”–it should be “how do we make the checkout process as smooth and efficient as possible for the shopper?”

Creating a satisfactory checkout process will drive long-run customer profitability far more than encouraging him to buy a magazine or an extra pack of gum….

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
13 years 4 months ago
It’s easy to see why pullers dominate: Now that we empty our own carts, it’s just too hard to reach the front from the pushing position–or at least it is for me, and I have long arms for my height. So a puller I’ve become. And, yes, the puller’s back is to the display opposite the conveyor belt. But there’s still the space above and behind it – by behind I mean where we’re standing in line, then looking while we load the merch onto the conveyor. I agree with the commenter who suggests making that process more efficient could improve the overall store experience. Yet I’m not going to sentence retailers to the loss of margin that would happen if that promotional area went away completely. Maybe the thing to do is get rid of the display that’s behind the puller’s back, so we’ve got more room to maneuver, and consolidate the best-performing impulse items in the smaller space the pullers can see. (And, when the economy improves, kick up the price points a… Read more »
Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
13 years 4 months ago

The study’s pusher/puller finding is interesting (personally, I’m a puller). I’m just not sure how merchants can use it to revamp the front end, despite the fact that there’s definitely room for checkout lane improvement.

Were merchants to tee off on this finding, they would need to find some way to put several dozen SKUs in front of pullers while they place items on conveyor belts. Most merchants already have various items stocked above the belt. Other than that, where else can they stock items so pullers take notice? Using a single line (as in banks and airports) would allow for the display of items along the wait line. But that configuration works best in small specialty stores, not grocers. Overall, it’s an interesting shopper insight, but not an “ah ha” finding.

Warner Granade
Guest
Warner Granade
13 years 4 months ago

This question made me think more about how my grocery store manages check out lines. They only want enough cashiers so that you will always be standing in line and waiting to put your stuff on the conveyor. That way, you have time to see the impulse merchandise that extends before the conveyor. That just wouldn’t work if they opened more registers and got us out faster. Push/pull doesn’t matter.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 4 months ago

Like Mary, my first reaction was that physically it is difficult to empty a cart while pushing; pulling makes the contents accessible. Fairly obvious, I would have thought.

As for selling at checkout, that seems all wrong to me. I understand the idea of reminding us what we may have forgotten or not realised we wanted but by the time we get there, checking out is pretty much the priority. If you can’t sell in the store, then don’t badger people when they’re trying to focus on unloading, paying and packing so they can get out.

Arthur Corbin
Guest
Arthur Corbin
13 years 4 months ago

Supermarkets that use this small space above the conveyor belt need to be more creative to generate more sales. Placing the same magazines there (are there really that many UFOs?) month after month wastes sales opportunities.

Themed merchandise tied to seasonal events, iPod vending machines, multi-pack promotional items, gifts, and fun items (the 10 best chocolate bars) will result in sales. This can also be a testing area for new products (baby items?).

I see opportunity knocking.

Cathy Briant
Guest
Cathy Briant
13 years 4 months ago

My observation has been that clean, uncluttered checkout areas make for satisfied customers, whether they push or pull. Narrow checkout lanes that are made more narrow with pegged items are a recipe for disaster, especially for pullers who may not back up in a straight line.

Self checkout areas don’t appear to lend themselves to impulse merchandising, likely because of the bulky equipment, but as retailers adopt more self checkout, the impulse merchandising opportunity disappears.

Interesting to note: Weight loss counselors have noticed that their members who use self-checkout report more success at staying on track. I guess out of sight is truly out of temptation!

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