Being successful at retail and selling to consumers is an art form – and no-one has cracked it quite like the leading supermarket chains.

They invest millions in researching consumer behaviour, in order to provide the optimal retail experience – one which encourages us to visit, spend longer in store and leave with more than we might have intended. Supermarkets are inviting on the outside and enticing on the inside. They are designed to pull you in and then keep hold of you.

While stadium teams may not have the budgets of the top retailers – and things like sophisticated lighting schemes, intelligent building controls and optimised interior design are likely to be out of reach for many – there are some tricks of the trade that can still be emulated. So, what are supermarkets doing to encourage us to part with more of our hard-earned cash? And how might stadium retailers learn from it, to enhance their own sales success on matchdays?

The top 6 tricks of the (supermarket) retail trade

  1. Put lighting in the spotlight

    Lighting innovation plays a huge part in modern supermarket design. Far more than simply fulfilling a functional role, things have got clever – from using sensors to track shoppers and enhance their individual experience, to making produce look fresher and more appealing. This study by Philips even found that using spotlights with pastel coloured uplights in a promotional area led to a 6% increase in sales. While you may not have budget for a whole new lighting scheme, consider how well lit your retail areas are and whether any improvements are needed.

  2. Work on reducing queues

    Supermarkets will open more tills at busy times. That’s because in crowded stores people spend less time shopping, do less impulse shopping and purchase fewer items. They are also put off simply by the sight of a queue – 86% of consumers say they will avoid a store if they think the queue is too long, and 70% say they are less likely to return to a store if they experience long waiting times. One solution is to introduce more places to purchase, to help take pressure off the main shop. For example, by placing pop up shops, kiosks or small visual merchandising units around the stadium.

  3. Choose the right music

    Background music is another key trick of the trade. Did you know the speed and style of music you use can affect both how someone uses your store and how long they stay? If you have a walk-in shop, play slower tempo music as this will encourage visitors not to rush, so they spend longer in store. Just make sure it’s not too loud, as that’s also been shown to encourage shoppers to leave sooner.

  4. Position your products strategically

    How and where you position items can have a big influence on sales. In supermarkets, the products they really want shoppers to buy are eye-level, such as the more expensive brand name cereals, while the budget ranges will be at the bottom. There’s also the viewpoint of younger visitors to consider, if you wish to tap into that market. Another one of the tactics we’re all pretty wise to nowadays, is how supermarkets position the most popular items deep within the store. That means visitors must enter and walk past other products to reach them, making them more likely to grab additional items they pass.

  5. Grab impulse purchases

    Supermarkets place tempting quick buys next to the tills. Put some essentials, bargains, deals or tempting offers near your tills, to encourage impulse buys. And throughout the store, make sure you are placing items that naturally go together, next to one another. Impulse buys, cross-selling and upselling could all give a healthy boost to your sales figures. Everyone loves a bargain too, which is why the traditional buy-one-get-one-free style offers are still a mainstay for most supermarkets.

  6. Please try the merchandise

    Supermarkets know that displays which allow customers to touch items can lead to increased sales. Consumers are often willing to pay more for items if they can see and touch them. The longer people spend holding and looking at products, the more they are likely to be willing to pay for them. So, ditch the ‘don’t touch the merchandise’ mentality and offer lots of opportunities for visitors to not only see, but touch, feel and try on items.

Plus, catering teams can get in on the act too!

Give out samples

Supermarkets are pros at using sampling to encourage a sale. Have a team member with a tray or trolley pass through the crowds with free samples, encouraging visitors to go get a snack. For example, giving away samples of a club pie made from locally-grown produce. Also consider how you might turbo charge your sales by offering a voucher to those who try – such as 50% off a drink when you purchase a pie today.


Bonus tips

Be where your customers are

If visitors aren’t coming to you (and a majority of those attending on matchdays won’t) then go to them! There are now many options for you to use portable and moveable retail units, meaning you can take merchandise to your potential customers and still present it in a professional way.

For ideas, see:


Step into your customer’s shoes

When was the last time you tested out the shopping experience at the stadium for yourself? It’s the oldest trick in the book. Go through the whole visitor experience and check that every part of the process is as strong as it can be. When visitors arrive at the ground, what do they see, what are they given, how are they being encouraged to make use of the retail and catering facilities? Can potential customers find services easily, do you have enough and adequate signage? Is the approach clear and easy?

Record a detailed snagging list as you go along and encourage team members to highlight anything they see, or that would make life easier. Often employees will walk past things every day, which if remedied could make a big difference.


And smile!

It goes a long way! Warm, friendly and approachable staff are one of the most important elements you can provide, any day of the week. If you need to, invest in some more customer service training, or a refresher to help keep employees motivated.


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