You Must Buy Candy At Checkout

A group of candy makers, publishers, and others threw down some cash on a study to find out what the big impulse buys are at checkout counters. The not-so-surprising results: candy topped the list, at 30% of all purchases. Hey, it’s their money.

According to the study, sponsored by Mars, Time-Warner, Wrigley, Coca-Cola and others, 1% of all supermarket sales happen at the checkout counter, and the top items after candy are magazines and drinks. The three “power categories” make up 80% of all checkout purchases, and the study’s authors say that merchants who don’t plant enticing items there are missing a golden opportunity to rake in more cash.

Some key recommendations for retailers:

  • Carry Confectionery on all the checkout lanes and merchandise Confectionery on both sides of the consumer to generate impulse purchases.
  • Maximize Magazine presence at the front-end on end caps as well as in the lane to enable consumer buying opportunities. Shoppers need to browse Magazines.
  • Make sure the top selling Magazine titles are available on key lanes. It is more important to carry the right titles than a large number of titles at the checkout.
  • Make beverage coolers available to shoppers on 80% of lanes.

Looks like you may have to say goodbye to candy-free lanes if retailers take any of this seriously. At least you’ll have plenty to read while waiting on line.

Front-End Focus


Edit Your Comment

  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I haven’t seen an empty checkout lane….. ever. They clearly already follow this advice.

    • kexline says:

      Some places — Wal-Mart and Target come to mind — give half the space to candy and/or magazines, and half to random crap. I guess it’s meant to increase the variety of impulse items available. This post suggests that there’s not much value in the added variety.

      • AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

        I always wonder how they decide what random crap to put up there. I’ve seen everything from grill lighters (sorta makes sense I guess) to tupperware containers (um, ok, I guess I get that) to toilet brushes (nope, no idea why that’s an impulse buy).

      • xredgambit says:

        I used to buy the Weekly World News. But now they are gone.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    I will occasionally buy a candy bar at the checkout counter, but never a $5 magazine. Usually at a supermarket rather than get a $1 candy bar, I’ll find a bag of candy or something in the aisles that will last me longer than a regular candy bar.

    • bhr says:

      I used to occasionally buy a soda from those coolers, then I realized I could buy a 6 pack for about the same price and never did again… It was when it topped $1 that I made the move. Same with candy bars to a lesser extent. I have a price point above which I can’t justify the impulse, and it was passed about 5 years ago.

      • shepd says:

        For the true cheap bastard at the supermarket, if you know you have a hankering for a soft drink, grab one at the start of your trip (you could even get one of the warm loose cans a lot of supermarkets sell in the pop aisle) and stick it in a freezer somewhere it won’t be noticed for an hour or so. Do your shopping. Pick up the drink you stashed just before you checkout and you now have a nice chilled drink for the warm drink price.

      • DogiiKurugaa says:

        The only bottled drinks I buy anymore is ones they don’t make 6-packs for or the 6-packs are not readily available at the grocery stores I shop at.

    • LoveyH says:

      I like to buy them outside at the vending machine, if there is one. I can get a drink that is the same size as the ones sold inside, but for much cheaper.

  3. Tim says:

    Ah, true marketing types: capitalizing words for no other reason than that they feel the words are important. Shoppers need to browse Magazines.

  4. Kuchen says:

    I will admit I probably get a York Peppermint Patty a few times a month from the checkout lane. I know I could just buy a bag, but I would definitely eat more that way. When I get it from the checkout, it feels like a treat and has built-in portion control.

  5. crazydavythe1st says:

    I wonder how much they spent to figure out 30% of all impulse purchases at checkout was candy when……candy is the primary item located at the checkout. You got snacks, drinks, and magazines. It figures that one of them dominates. In fact the only thing that surprises me is that it isn’t more – I guess there’s a sizable group of people buying those checkout tabloids.

    I’m sure this is because of contractual obligations – but it sure would be nice to have all the available drinks in one cooler. crossing half the store to find a DP with every other cooler carrying Coke isn’t the most consumer friendly thing to do if you want to generate impulse buys. and then you’re stuck with diet DP….yeah…

    • failurate says:

      It would also be obvious that the lowest priced item would dominate. But, who am I to stop “researchers” from getting paid.

  6. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I live near Lakewood NJ, and due to the large amount of Jewish shoppers, they block/cover the fronts of nearly every magazine on the front end. I sometimes feel sorry for that vendor.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      They do this at Wegmans for Cosmo. At first I thought it was because there was a Cosmo with a real live naked lady on it… nope. I’m guessing it’s because of the sexual nature of the articles.

      • West Coast Secessionist says:

        LOL. I’ve never seen that, but I haven’t spent very much time on the East Coast. Even Puritan Massachusetts didn’t do that!

    • chiieddy says:

      Should point out Lakewood has a very conservative Orthodox Jewish population. It’s a huge community there. Probably one of the biggest outside Brooklyn. But not all Jewish sects are that conservative, or care.

    • Awjvail says:

      My grandmother tapes together the bra section of the Sears catalog….

  7. daveinva says:

    What, astrology scrolls, Reader’s Digest and eyeglass repair kits don’t sell as well as candy?

    The cake is a lie.

  8. pdxazn says:

    Do you have a choice? The only place they place the candy and magazine are near the check out counter. The study is a waste of money. I could tell you the same.

    • EdnaLegume says:

      all the grocery stores i’ve ever been in have a separate aisle dedicated to magazines and books. there’s also the candy aisle but it’s bulk, not individual items.

  9. fantomesq says:

    I love how the result of a study by the major candy, gum, soda and publishing house pays for a study that says to maximize profits retails should give more shelf space to candy, gum, soda and magazines… That definitely drives someone’s profits… consider the source.

  10. UlimaLibizzle says:

    Not to go on a Sienfieldesque want or anything, but…

    What’s the deal with the grocery store’s magazine selection?!?

    All of the magazines are clearly targeted at women (US Weekly, People, etc). Now, I know that women shop more than men, but looking at the checkout lines there are at least 30% men. If that’s the case, why do I have nothing to look at in the checkout line but which pseudo-celebrity is fatter?!? Couldn’t they at least put out a few copies of Newsweek?

    • catskyfire says:

      Would that be effective? I’ve seen news magazines now and again at checkouts, but they may have done the observations that those weren’t picked up as impulse items. While some might be tantalized by the latest on Brad and Angelina, enough to impulsively buy the magazine, would that many be tantalized by what Newsweek offers for the same impulse?

      • NewsMuncher says:

        Most of the time there’s a Newsweek on the aisle. I think it varies by the region. In places where there’s a higher concentration of educated people, I often notice that The Economist is carried in the checkout aisles.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I always see these magazines at the checkout, alongside all the usual soap opera crap and tabloids: Newsweek, The Economist, Time, The Washingtonian, Northern Virginia Magazine, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, People, O (the Oprah magazine), Rachel Ray, Bon Appetit, and some other cooking magazines.

    • tbax929 says:

      I’m a woman, and I don’t read any either of the magazines you listed as “women’s magazines”. I read Entertainment Weekly, Time, Sports Illustrated, and History Channel Magazine. They don’t put the ones I read at the checkout aisle, either (although I’ve seen EW there once or twice). I think it’s silly to buy an issue of a magazine when you can subscribe for about $20 a year.

  11. SmillaSnow says:

    My supermarket sells batteries at the checkout, which pleases me since I always forget to pick them up while doing the rest of my shopping. I definitely give in to temptation w/the drinks, though. They’re so overpriced, I should resist.

  12. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The thing more dangerous than the checkout candy lane is the candy aisle. There, I am fully capable of going nuts with my candy obsessions, specifically chocolate and sour patch kids. The only response for this is for the stores to put things on the high shelf, so me (even in heels) cannot reach them.

  13. EldestPort says:

    UMM if you think about it 100% of all supermarket sales happen at the checkout counter.

  14. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    My boyfriend almost always nabs a pepsi before leaving the supermarket.

  15. GMFish says:

    Looks like you may have to say goodbye to candy-free lanes…

    I never understood the point of candy-free lanes. Are there diabetics out there who cannot look at candy?

    Are there parents out there who are unable to say “no” to their kids’ requests for candy?

    If you don’t want candy, don’t buy it.

    • lucky929 says:

      Some supermarkets near me had candy-free lanes for awhile specifically for parents with kids. I don’t know if they still do.

      • TouchMyMonkey says:

        They do if they want to steal business from stores that don’t. Sometimes you have to sacrifice sales opportunities in order to make customers happy and foster brand loyalty. It’s a tightrope walk, really.

      • veg-o-matic says:

        Yeah, where I grew up, the store we frequented had a candy-free lane that was marked with a large sign above that said something along the lines of “Mom! Checkout here!”

        It seemed to be less about being able to say “no” to the kiddos than avoiding major tantrums as a result of the “no” answers. Out of sight, out of mind for alot of young kids.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Why even generate the question? If there were candy-free lanes, kids wouldn’t even ask. For some reason, when I was a kid, I never asked for candy in the checkout lane. I didn’t eat much junk food at all, though, so I probably didn’t even want much candy until I got older.

  16. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    Studies like this puzzle me, they’re paid for by the candy companies to what? Reaffirm that putting candy in the checkout aisles leads to impulse buys? Ok good, so now we have scentific proof what’s already essential been common knowledge for decades. The thing is, bringing this to the attention of the public is more likely to reduce impulse buys so why put out a report like this? I know personally when I read something like I become more conscious of the calculating marketing minds at work behind it and I make it a personal point not to reward them for their attempt at manipulating my subconscious.

  17. TheMonkeyKing says:

    Pthhhhhth…I knew this since the 1980s when I worked as an apprentice architect for a well known chain of gas stations. We designed a story layout known to us as the bull chute. It worked like this:
    – on the store front we have two doors. Howerver, only one door had a handle and was marked “Entrance.” The other was marked ‘Exit’ and the letters were written to be read correctly only from inside the store.
    – going in the Entrance, you were led around a large half circle which took you by (on the outside of the arc) the video rental kiosk, the fresh made food (pizza, burgers, etc.), and then the aisles of sundry shopping before you even got to the cashier counter. The inner arc itself displayed candies and magazines.

    Yes, you had to walk around all of that just to pay for gas. Of course, this was way before credit at the pump would appear. But it still works today.

  18. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    The problem with the checkout candy is that people can only walk past it once, whereas any other aisle in the store, someone might walk through it several times, increasing their likelihood of making a purchase.

    If stores want to maximize the checkout impulse purchases, they should make the checkout aisles longer, perhaps put the register and the bagging further apart, play sounds of babies crying and coins dropping, in order to get customers to turn around and thus see the candy rack a second time, or perhaps have floating candy racks that hang from a track in the ceiling and follow you around the store as you shop.

  19. TouchMyMonkey says:

    So which is it? Beverage coolers or magazine racks? You probably can’t have both at the end caps. Of course, you can lengthen the impulse buy corridor (or gauntlet, if you will) to accommodate more crap, but by how much can you do this before running into the law of diminishing returns?

    What I don’t get is why certain items, like batteries, are only available on the impulse racks, and nowhere else in the store. OK, so I’ll do all my other shopping first, but what I really need is a pack of AA batteries, so I’ll have to hope I don’t forget that by the time I get to the checkout line and I’m trying like hell to resist buying any crap from the impulse rack.

  20. Major Annoyance says:

    Never miss a chance to be a Pavlov’s dog for the marketing wonks.

  21. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Put the good magazines in the checkout. I can never find them. No stupid Star or decorating mags; I want my People and Reader’s Digest (which I refuse to get a subscription to because then you’re on the junk mail list FOREVER). Cosmo and Glamour I don’t need because I get them in the mail. Put Esquire or something there too for the guys; also, the men’s mags sometimes publish stories by writers I like and then I can’t find them.

    Weekly World News is always amusing to look at. Loved the Bat Boy saga.

  22. tonberry says:

    i remember when the lanes had packs of cigarettes with the candy and magazines

  23. halothane says:

    Ugh. Hate chocolate (yes, I am a chick.) The only thing that can really tempt me in the checkout line are Swedish Fish or Necco Wafers. God, I love those chalky little shits.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      God, I love those chalky little shits.

      I almost choked on my chips! Hahahaha! I like Swedish Fish, but I can’t eat more than half a small bag, otherwise I start feeling really nauseated. I don’t think it’s a physical reaction as much as my mind and body remembering that one night about 5 years ago when I got through about half of one of those giant bags of Swedish Fish, and got so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t eat another Swedish Fish for the next year.

  24. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Once in a while, I’ll buy a piece of chocolate like a Kit Kat bar or Snickers, but only if it’s on sale. Also, I usually buy chewing gum at the checkout.

  25. chiieddy says:

    Grocery store managers/owners will have to make a decision:

    1. More sales
    2. More screaming children when Mom tells them, no you can’t have a candy bar.

    • kuhjäger says:

      I remember I once saw a place that advertised a candy free checkout line for mothers.

      Always a good idea I thought.

  26. Garybaldy says:

    Reminds me of the impulse purchase maze at Fry’s Electronics as well as Microcenter.

  27. mbz32190 says:

    Well it makes sense that candy has the highest sales…that’s what most of the space is devoted to. I work in a supermarket, which also has all kinds of random crap thrown by the checkouts too like lint filters and Krazy Glue, nail clippers, and other weird items I would never pick up at a supermarket checkout. And people still buy magazines? I don’t really know the last time I read a magazine, except maybe a Time or something at the dentist office.