Retail employees and the insights of their world

Picture it: you’re walking around your house, eventually finding yourself in your kitchen, before finally reaching the pantry. You weren’t sure what you were looking for, but somehow you had this feeling that when you got to the pantry you would find something good. Nope, you were wrong! Guess it’s time to restock. Only one place to do that – your friendly neighborhood retail chain!

Ah yes, the classic retail stores of the world certainly help us out in time of dire need, don’t they? They pretty much have everything. Granted, some are larger than others, and some offer more specific products than others. But there are some – such as Walmart or Costco, that offer pretty much anything you need – food, home appliances, a birthday card for your grandma – it’s all likely going to be there.

These major retailer chains share certain qualities that allow them to thrive so successfully. The most obvious of them all is clear, and has just been stated – they simply have everything the average person needs. But beyond the obvious value that their products bring to us, retail employees have recently allowed the public to take a sneak peek into their world behind the scenes, sharing with us insights about hidden subtleties that makes the retail universe tick.


Last time you were in a Walgreens, and you sidled down the produce aisle looking for cabbages, did you ever wonder why there was a break in between the cabbages and the broccoli? We’re betting that you never thought about such minute details. And don’t worry, because these are not things any of us should be worried about when searching for a good cabbage.

But believe it or not, the very things that seem tiny and insignificant, the very elements of your shopping experience that you probably have never thought about before, are actually tremendous contributors to your entire experience as a consumer. Even something as small as the big display sign you observed when you walked in was put there for a specific purpose.

But the secret intricacies of retail chains extend far and wide – not only have employees shared with us interesting facts about seemingly unimportant details such as layout plans – they’ve also shared tips. These tips are designed to arm you with facts you may not have known – tips that might make your trip to Target that much better.

At the end of the day, the retail giants of the service industry have our best interests at heart. While they may keep certain facts about their methods hidden, the general premise is that they only do it to offer us a better experience. Just as good magicians never reveal their secrets, our friends in the retail industry are no different. They are here to give us an experience. And they do it well.

All part of the plan

In the world of major retail stores, everything is meticulously planned down to the smallest can of baked beans. It may be true that the choices you are making are your own, but you should never underestimate the power of suggestion, because retailers are masters at it. They have it all worked down to a science. They have done the necessary research, analyzed the right statistics, and brought it all together into a neat package. They are master visceral communicators, so the more you know about them, the better.


While retailers are certainly experts at the art of visual communication, it may seem daunting for shoppers who have just discovered a certain chain for the first time. Sometimes it’s just fun to shop, but after a while the average customer wants to know more. They want to know which day of the week is best for shopping, and they want to know which location has the most inventory. Thankfully, retail employees are more than happy to guide us through the various available options.

Big man on campus

Among the many major retailers in the world, arguably the biggest of them all is Walmart. Sporting 11,453 stores across 27 countries, Walmart is a chain that has changed the retail game. And you can be rest assured that the best of the best have their own tricks of the trade. Regular Walmart goers have learned over time, through trial and error, when the time is right to go, what aisles have the best deals, and so on. But if you’re not one of these people, have no fear – today is your lucky day…

Online shopping

A current store manager of Walmart has decided to share a few insider tips to help potential customers. And here is their first tip: Instead of buying groceries at the store, you should buy them online and pick them up at the store. This is helpful because not only is the pickup free, but you can avoid rolling through aisles and fighting over spots in line, while simultaneously trying to keep an eye on your four-year-old son.

Mobile express returns

Another shared tip that has been saving folks more time than Tivo, is Mobile Express Returns. It is a known thing that the customer service lines at Walmart can be very long. Mobile Express Returns allows you to skip these long lines if you’re faced with a classic conundrum of buyer’s remorse. However, the item must be bought online, and you must retrieve the QR code from the Walmart app. Once at the store, just skip that line, and scan it!

Tag me please

When you’re out shopping at a large retail store, chances are you will spend a lot of money. We certainly don’t blame you – it’s just the nature of the beast. But here’s another tip that may help. Price tags, apparently, can reveal more information than you might have originally thought. Take a peek at final number on each price tag – if it ends with a zero or a one, it’s a final markdown price. A five indicates that it’s the first markdown. Seven means it’s full price.

Welcome to our home

Beyond the realm of Walmart, there are plenty of other large retailers that are also masters at their craft. There are so many interesting subtle details that go into to maintaining a business of this stature. These can be things related to the man who greets you at the door, to the specific placement of the clearance section. There are so many different branches of planning that go into this marketing process, and here are a few.

First impressions

Some things are true for only retailers, but most things are universal – like making a good first impression. This is important in all aspects of life; when we first meet people, as well as when we first walk into a large retail store. One way that retailers find it easy to make a strong initial impression is to have a greeters at the doors. The greeters are stationed there to greet you with a smile, and immediately give you a positive feeling when you walk in the store.

Quite a display

Another method that is used to make a good first impression is to have large displays upon entering. When you walk in, you may already know exactly what you want to buy, and run straight there, and out the door. The large display up front is a suggestion for you to not be too hasty – stay a little while and see what else we have. This is a great way to catch your eye, especially if there is a sale.

The big picture

In addition to a large display perched in the entrance hall, a common practice for retailers is also to place lower shelving units when you first walk in. The idea is that when the shelf displays are larger, it’s harder to see everything else in the store. Placing lower shelving units is not only more aesthetically pleasing for the natural consumer, but it allows you to take in the whole store when you first walk in, helping you plan your next move.

Everyone needs a hug

Here is another clever technique they use to spark your interest – offer “hugs”. Not actual ones – the metaphorical kind. Brain Dyches, CEO of retail firm Ikonic Tonic, claims that humans are aesthetically attracted to round and U shapes. Based on this information, the approach they have is to design layouts in the shape of a U, with the logic that it’s inviting to the customer, and that when standing inside it it feels like a “hug.”

Unexpected significance

Beyond the layout, one very important stage in the process of planning a store is one that often gets overlooked by customers. We are talking about none other than the physical layout of the building. This can mean anything from the location of the building itself, to the confines of a parking space, and the placement of aisles within the store. Nothing is redundant within the confines of what you see in a store. It has all been planned with the simple purpose of catching your eye.

To the right, to the right

One method retailers like to use when structuring the layout of the building may surprise you. Apparently, research has proven that when approaching a large store, customers tend to walk in from the left. Based on this data, retailers have found it prudent to place the more sought after items within the right region of the store – thereby steering people to the right, and providing the customer with a thorough intake of their store’s products.

Lead me on

As we continue to learn more and more about the methods of structuring a store layout, we further understand how everything is connected. Which brings us to the next method: retailers believe it is important to constantly lead people somewhere. For instance, when walking down an aisle, they will place a perpendicular aisle at the end of it, so as to guarantee that the customer will have no choice but to see more products in a separate aisle.

I’ve got an angle

Here is another interesting insight into the layout of the some retail buildings. Instead of setting up the aisles in a box-ish fashion, they think they can be a little more creative. Without setting off the setting off the integral balance of the store layout too much, the use of angular aisles has become very common. By placing a handful of aisles on an angle, it provides a strong contrast to the conventionality present in the majority of the square aisles, thus the giving the customer a sense of freshness.

Give me a break

It’s true, when we walk down the aisles of our favorite stores, there is always a feel that everything is leading somewhere. Another way that this vibe is instilled is when there are breaks placed between the aisles. Yes, it’s certainly important for an aisle to be substantially long, so that it can hold all the different cereals we love – but it shouldn’t be that long. Studies have shown that people’s attention spans are tested when faced with long aisles that are not interrupted.

How does it feel?

The layout of the building is certainly important when attempting to captivating the customers interest, but there is a whole other element to what keeps people in a store. Sometimes, it is the overall vibe that keeps us in a store, and that can be maintained through many avenues, such as music, aroma, and cleanliness. These factors may seem minuscule, but each of these elements play an integral role in the cinematic texture that contributes to your overall shopping experience.

The windows of your soul

Let’s talk about windows. Seems trivial and unimportant, right? Wrong, says Linda Cahan, a design and display consultant of company, Cahan & Co. She says, “Just like your eyes are the windows of your soul, store windows are the eyes of the store. Each window should tell a story”. Wow. Wonder if you ever thought about it like that. Anyway, here are a few techniques that Cahan believes should be applied to store windows, making them effective communicators.

Let your name shine

Cahan has observed window techniques used by other retailers and isn’t such a fan. She doesn’t think it’s a good idea when store windows are blank. While they do provide customers with ample opportunity to gaze into the store, she believes it’s more important to make an artistic statement with the windows. According to Cahan, it’s important find out what makes your company unique, and to boldly display it on the store windows – without cramming in too much information.

Music to my ears

We know windows can be fun to discuss, but there are more pieces to this pie. The music, for instance. In this case, every retailer is different when it comes to what music they believe is the most beneficial to play in their store. But here something they all have in common. They all play specific music with the aim to evoke a certain emotion from their average customer – with the mindset that it will make them want to stay longer, and potentially buy more items.

All senses tingling

The overall mindset within most retailers is that they want you to chill out. Their primary aim to make you relaxed, with the hope that it will make you want to stick around, and perhaps be open to making new purchases you hadn’t considered before. Music is a very effective tool for this, impacting your sense of hearing. But they also are very focused on captivating your sense of smell. Here’s how they do it.

That brings me back

The subliminal messaging involved in providing a certain scent to a customer is not so different from the kind that is involved when playing a certain song to a customer. At the end of the day, it all comes back to references. When retailers influence you with music, you immediately find yourself submerged into a certain lifestyle – thus referencing the products in front of you. The same is the case with the sense of smell.

Mmm smells good!

Just like with music, retailers waft certain smells into your shopping environment, providing you with a sense of ease, and transmitting a certain sensibility into your psyche. Their hope is that the scent that you are smelling will perhaps allow you to recall a certain memory in your mind, evoke an emotion associated with that memory, and ultimately convince you to buy more products. For instance, if you are in an aisle with baby products, they may induce a scent that smells like baby powder.

Stick with the classics

There are many methods that retailers use to try to get more sales, and some are more commonly known than others. For instance, how many times have we all been faced with a real “Buy one, get one free” pickle? We cannot deny that the money saver in us is always called into question during these moments. On one hand, we understand that it is a fantastic deal. On the other hand, we may not have considered buying the item at all in the first place.

Maybe just one more…

Another common method that we see a lot is the placement of add ons at the register. We all know what it’s like – we’ve just finished an entire hour’s worth of shopping, and on one hand our cart is practically overflowed, and on the other – it’s just one small thing. The beauty of this method is that we usually don’t consider the “add-on” as part of the entire shopping experience – it’s usually just a Hershey bar we plan on eating right away.

And after that… it’s gone

One more thing that retailers do quite a lot to try to entice you to buy more items is tell you that something is “limited time only”. When a sale for an item is ending, stores will be sure to notify you, knowing full well that you won’t be able to help yourself. It is advised that you should not feel pressured in those moments. Especially if the item is a relatively expensive one, it’s important to do some research and take some time before you hastily buy unnecessarily.

Good ol’ Costco

Let’s move on from retailers as a whole, and get into some specific major retailers. We discussed some shares insights from a Walmart employee recently, and we will return there momentarily. Before that though, there is another company we’d like to discuss first – Costco. We all love Costco. Who doesn’t have a crazy Costco story? Wouldn’t you like to know just a bit more about this large-quantity-of-items-carrying chain? Here are some Costco secrets employees have agreed to share…

The cashier is our friend

Have you ever stood at the checkout counter, watched the cashier ring up your items, and then observed her take a long look at your receipt? A Costco employee was asked what they are really looking at during these moments. Their response was that they are mainly checking for expensive items that may have been accidentally inserted twice, due to scanning errors. She said that their “mostly making sure you got what you paid for.”

False assumptions

Another Costco employee was asked once to reveal what they thought the most underrated fact of their company was. Their answer was that Costco is more progressive than people think. According to this employee, most people consider Costco a fairly conservative company, and are mistaken in that regard. The employee said that this is a very wide perception from citizens in red state districts, and concluded that Costco is actually a very liberal minded company.

Through the looking glass

To cap it off, one more Walmart secret you most definitely have to know. If you’re a tech-head or a video game nut, you will especially love this one. A Walmart employee shares that when it comes to high electronics, the clearance items are always kept behind the glass case – so be on the lookout for that! And make sure you drop by there around fall time – as due to brands releasing new products in time for the winter holidays, these particular clearance items are plentiful.