Here are some Black Friday data points to enlighten (and perhaps annoy) shoppers while they’re waiting in line for stores to open up, wondering whether prices will be cheaper next week, or arguing with a driver in the parking lot after getting into a car accident: Increasingly, it almost seems easier to find things that are listed on sale rather than full price throughout the holiday period. In fact, 44% of shoppers say they will “only buy sale items” over the holidays because they anticipate that merchandise—pretty much all merchandise—will eventually be discounted. More than 20,000 Black Friday deals are expected to be advertised this year, up from around 17,000 for Black Friday 2011. The number of Americans who are likely to hit the stores over Black Friday weekend is down this year … to a mere 147 million consumers. In the buildup to Black Friday weekend of 2011, as many as 152 million Americans were expected to descend on the malls. More than half of American consumers had already started their holiday shopping as of the first week of November. (MORE: 8 Black Friday Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make) Meanwhile, 78% of consumers say they wish stores would not play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, and 75% say that stores shouldn’t put up Christmas decorations until after Turkey Day. Nearly one-third of American consumers think that Black Friday sales start too early; also, 34% get stressed out by Black Friday shopping because “the thought of that many people in one store is scary.” Some of the memorable (and scary) incidents experienced by Black Friday shoppers in the past include: • Got shut out of a store because the fire marshall arrived. • I almost got run over by an older woman in a motorized wheelchair. • I was pushed into a skid of DVD players and ended up with a concussion. Here’s one more reason to stay home: Progressive Insurance reported that claims over parking lot car accidents increased 36% from Black Friday 2010 to Black Friday 2011.
Who among us hasn’t come back from a shopping excursion, looked over the just-purchased haul, and wondered, What was I thinking? Often, our shopping decisions aren’t the result of a completely logical thought process, but are instead affected by what we smell, hear, and touch, and what people around us are doing inside the store. In the nearly 20 years that I’ve been interviewing shoppers, it’s clear that most consumers like to think of themselves as rational, in-control human beings who carefully weigh costs versus benefits, compare prices, and rarely buy on impulse or come home with more than they need. It’s also clear that few, if any, among us make wholly rational decisions when shopping. Most consumers are oblivious to the fact that when you’re shopping, you’re the subject of a multi-pronged sensory campaign. Retailers, on the other hand, are well aware of how environmental cues—smells, sounds, colors, and more—can influence consumers’ moods, desires, and willingness to spend money. With the year’s busiest shopping period at hand, it’s a good time to try to understand how our senses and emotions can be manipulated inside stores, sometimes to the point that we’re not thinking straight. Scents Smells make a direct hit to emotional centers of our brain. They have a unique ability to evoke moods and memories. It’s no surprise that Bloomingdale’s, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Victoria’s Secret, and scores of other retailers use scents to stimulate positive and associative moods and enhance our perception of their brands and products. (MORE: Why Holiday Season ‘Self-Gifting’ Is Such a Huge Holiday Retail Trend) Studies show that the right scent can increase our perception of the quality of products and brands. Certain smells—for instance, leather, lemon, vanilla, and baby powder in a shoe store—are also known to get people to stay out shopping longer. Pine, that quintessential holiday scent, can evoke a feeling happiness, earthy wholesomeness, and nostalgia. It’s just the right mix to get early holiday shoppers in the mood to buy. Another holiday favorite smell, peppermint, increases physiological arousal and