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An insight into the tricks of the retail trade. In the space of just five years, the UK population spent a whopping £6.2 billion on impulse purchases, averaging just over £1.2 billion a year and spending £129 each. Enticing customers into making unnecessary purchases is the retail industry’s secret weapon. These items may only add a small amount to the customer’s bill, but cumulatively they can drastically increase a brand’s profit margins.

Checkout displays with magazines, confectionary and chewing gum are the biggest culprits in encouraging impulse buys, but clothing, shoes, kitchenware, subscriptions and gym memberships are also eating into our hard earned cash.


57% of people admit to wasting money on clothing or fashion accessories. More than a fifth of these items are never used or worn. Similarly, almost half of UK consumers have bought expensive kitchen appliances only to put it away in a cupboard where they are left to gather dust.

Millennials are prone to making impulse buys

When shopping, millennials are 52% more likely to make an impulse buy than other generations, particularly when it comes to pampering themselves rather than purchasing for somebody else’s benefit. Millennials make more spontaneous purchases when their bank accounts are flush, with 46% making impulse buys soon after payday.

Studies have also found that women are more likely than men to buy on impulse. Retail therapy, the comfort that comes from purchasing something new after a particularly trying day or event, is cited by 20% of women as the main catalyst of impulsive shopping.

Despite living in an era that is heavily reliant on digital and mobile technology, a recent survey found that only 6% of impulse buys are made on a smartphone or tablet, suggesting that the majority of unplanned purchases still occur in-store.

Retailers use charmed prices to entice customers into unplanned purchases

The most common reason behind impulse purchases is that a sale or promotion presented itself in the store. Many retailers harness the power of the number nine to entice customers with promotions.

Prices ending in the number 9 are often referred to as ‘charmed prices’ as it is believed they give the illusion of a significantly lower price. Research has found that items with a higher charm price can actually outsell the same item marked at a lower place.

Another concept widely used by retailers is the ‘left digit effect’ which suggests prices ending in the number 9 will be more tempting to customers if the left digit has reduced. For example, the difference in popularity of a product sold for either £2.59 or £2.60 will be almost non-existent, whereas a one pence reduction from £10 to £9.99 will be significantly more popular.

What can you do to prevent impulsive shopping habits?

Before buying new items, it’s worth going through what you already own to see what you actually need. Not only will this help you declutter your life, it will help you realise the things you truly value and appreciate. Clearance Solutions have created a handy decluttering flowchart to help you decide what to keep and what can go. Items you don’t need can either be thrown away, donated to charity or sold to fund replacements for worn out items.

Another good idea, particularly when it comes to clothing, is to take photos of items in your wardrobe. That way you don’t end up buying items that are almost exactly the same in style or colour as something you already own.

When you’re going shopping it’s worth leaving debit and credit cards at home as it is psychologically harder for us to part with cold hard cash. Studies have found that customers generally spend less money when paying in cash. One such study found that people who pay with credit cards at fast-food restaurants spend on average 50% more than those who pay with cash.

Alternatively, establishing a mandatory waiting period can help you to see things more clearly before impulsively making purchases. Wait at least a week after first seeing an item before purchasing. You’ll often find that after a week of consideration you’ll no longer have the same interest in the item and may decide you’re better off saving your money. You’re also smart to wait a while when buying the latest high-tech gadgets. Most new technologies decrease in price after initially release and demand increases.


Why you can’t control your impulse buying
Digital Mag

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