7 Shopping Secrets Retailers Won't Tell You

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  • There's a method to mall madness Today's retailers have uncovered the science behind shopping. Your favorite mall stores actually hire such retail researchers as Paco Underhill, author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping."

    Underhill has tracked hundreds of thousands of shoppers to study how they shop. "There is nothing random about how a store is arranged and designed. It is carefully calculated to appeal to you in every possible way," he says.

    "The stores have a plan, so you should, too," says Dave Ramsey, best-selling author of "The Total Money Makeover" and host of a syndicated financial talk show on the radio.

  • The 'magic' of the display We can learn a lesson in Underhill's book from a story told by a retailer about a tempting display of T-shirts.

    "We buy them in Sri Lanka for $3 each. Then we bring them over here and sew in washing instructions, which are in French and English. Notice we don't say the shirts are made in France. But you can infer that if you like. Then ... we fold them just right on a tasteful tabletop display, and on the wall behind it we hang a huge, gorgeous photograph of a beautiful woman in an exotic locale wearing the shirt."

    Resist the urge: "Write a monthly mall shopping budget and stash cash in an envelope specifically for that purpose. When the envelope is empty, stop spending," says Ramsey. "A written budget makes you think twice when you are tempted by impulse buys."

  • When BOGO and 2-fer deals are good BOGOs (buy one, get one), two-fers (two for the price of one) and bundled-item promotions successfully tempt you into shopping more often and spending more to raise the store's number of sales as well as ticket averages, or amount of each sale. They're not always a good deal for you if you're not familiar with the store merchandise and its regular prices. "You're not saving if you are actually spending more than you planned," says Underhill.

    Resist the urge: "Know your favorite retailers, brands, regular prices, promotions and discounts -- and always check the clearance area first to find a similar item on sale to avoid buying two of anything and spending more," says family financial expert Ellie Kay, author of "The 60-Minute Money Workout."

    "Ask yourself, 'Do I really need two sweaters or two of the same jeans?'"

  • Don't turn right when entering the store "Retail shopping studies have found that most people turn right when they enter a store. That's because the majority of the population is right-handed and right-oriented," says Underhill.

    Knowing this, stores highlight tempting new items and trends to the right of the entrance. You'll find that the music is louder and the displays are brighter to attract you where you will look and turn first. This is also where the most expensive items in the store are generally displayed.

    Resist the urge: "Shop with blinders on," says Kay. "Stick to your list with the cash in your hand. Avoid credit card debt at all costs, and head straight to what you came for."

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