From produce aisle to checkout lane: All things grocery in Washington

Does Whole Foods “prime” us to shop?

September 16, 2011 - 09:37 AM
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Making the rounds on the Internet: an interesting, if dubious, account of how Whole Foods weaves a spell around shoppers, enticing them to buy more. Among the “tricks” Martin Linstrom, author of Brandwashed, delineates: arranging flowers at the entrance to give a sense of freshness and delicacy; chalkboard signage designed to look like road-side produce signs; and only displaying bananas of a particular hue. Linstrom suggests that Whole Foods stacks produce in specially created display crates designed to “evoke the image of Grapes of Wrath-era laborers piling box after box of fresh fruit into the store,” all in a grand effort to charm customers into buying more.

All interesting ideas, but not necessarily accurate and certainly not limited to Whole Foods. Linstrom says Dole advises grocers to display the fruit when it’s Pantone color 12-0752, as the shade sells better—except Whole Foods doesn’t sell Dole bananas. The P Street store, for instance, sources organic and conventional bananas from Costa Rica through its own Whole Trade program. Other points from Linstrom’s research, like the fresh-flowers shtick and sprinkling produce with water, apply to plenty of other local grocers. (I was greeted with fresh orchids last time I walked into the Sexy Safeway.)

Besides, who cares if Whole Foods seduces shoppers with attractive signage? There are no sirens atop the Clarendon store, luring unwilling shoppers inside. People go there with the intent to purchase, so what’s the big deal if the store goes the extra mile to enhance the shopping experience?

Give me the fresh flowers, I say. If it makes me buy more arugula, so be it.

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