Lifestyle Money Inc

Hakuna pesa: How you shop out of budget… and why supermarkets should sell mutura!

Women spend more time loitering in supermarkets comparing prices, reading expiry dates and smelling perfumes and lotions

Shopping list, my foot: Supermarkets use a Kenyan shopper’s urge for instant gratification to ensure they spend more than the items on the budget list. Once you’re in, you’re their prisoner.

By Shifa Mwihaki

Feature Writer/Essayist

@Undercover KE

You must have entered a supermarket… not once, not twice… with the intention of buying the Sh80 yoghurt only to end up with a trolley that dents Sh5000 into your wallet.

Despite Kenyans crying there is no money, impulse buying, the act of looking at and feeling an irresistible urge to buy stuff you had not budgeted for will be repeated in all supermarkets this December.

Come to think of it, why do we buy things we had not budgeted for? What happens to the mind when a God fearing Kenyan drops the shopping list along with the small basket and goes for the biggest trolley before burning money like a bank on fire?

Local research shows over 60 percent of supermarket sales comes from impulse buying. And major supermarkets have come up with many tactics of ensuring you leave them with more quid than you had planned.

Forget the pricing tactic of retailing items at Sh299 which is just Sh300 and consider one tactic that never fails; that of having essential home supplies at the farthest end of the supermarket. You must have noticed that stuff like milk, cooking oil, bread and perishables like meat are always never near cashiers, rather, they are at the back.

While shuffling with the intention of buying two packets of milk, you notice the 50% offer on ironing board and sufurias near the detergent section. That offer, and the way Kenyans love bargaining, is filed at the back of your head that failed in mathematics.

You notice the 1kg plum jam is sold with free tomato sauce tied to it

The supermarket bakery smells really nice and you figure if you were going to fetch milk, then bread is not a bad idea. But next to the bread are enticing cakes and that bhajia inside the glass counter starts churning your stomach.

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Just as you are about to walk past the juice section, there is this promotion lady winking at you to test the latest chamomile tea. It is herbal. While testing you notice the 1kg plum jam is sold with free tomato sauce tied to it. So is the washing powder which has a smaller version tied to its top.

By the time you are leaving the supermarket the attendants have to help you carry the ironing board and non-stick sufurias. Your intention was one packet of milk, but now you have washing powder, jam with tomato sauce, bread and black forest cake and two packets of chamomile tea!

Kata ya mbao: Kenyans love eating mutura by the road side under the cover of darkness. Supermarkets are yet to capitalize by stocking this local of homespan delicacies.

Supermarkets sales rely on psychology. Children can cry for items so hard embarrassed parents have no choice. Just why toys are at the level of a kid’s hands and sweets and chocolates are at the counter where children can throw them into the basket and the parent has no choice. Not with all the eyes staring.

And why are condoms also found near the cashier?

And those loyalty cards supermarkets give customers have a purpose beyond dishing out points. Never mind you only get one point for every Sh100 spent. The points can be redeemed against a purchase,  get discounts, surprise birthday wishes and double points when shopping off-peak.

But the real reason is creating loyalty for repeat customers.

A 2012 research at Kenyatta University on ‘Factors influencing Impulse Buying in Supermarkets in Nairobi’ by Edward K Wanjugi revealed that repeat customers through loyalty cards were very crucial to overall sales from one simple fact: The psychology of shopping is such that people frequent supermarkets whose merchandise, display and procedures they’re familiar with. This gives them a feeling of control and exploration-which leads to impulse buying! In unfamiliar supermarkets where you have no loyalty card, a customer only goes to the liquor section if all they needed was something stronger than tea leaves.

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Research carried out in 2017 revealed a list of items most likely to be bought on impulse: cookies, chewing gum, mint, candy, sauces, crackers, pasta. Others items aligned to impulse buying are clothes and the reason supermarkets have clothing lines upstairs. Other items are groceries and many a supermarket has been turned into a soko.

Supermarket kitchens were opened to cater for busy singles who have no time for home cooking

The milky way: Essential home supplies like milk are always stocked at the furthest end of a supermarket for reasons not obvious to the shopper, but which ensure super profits.

Wanjugi notes that the power of supermarkets is when customers are ‘shopping prisoners.’ Over 75 percent of shopping decisions are made when Kenyans are loitering with trolleys. Once the shopper leaves, the power is lost.

Supermarkets understand that shoppers are irrational. That combined with their desire for instant gratification have seen them rake in dough in the truckloads. They also exploit emotions attached to big purchases. Like a 20 percent off on Plasma televisions, fridges and cookers can see those with TV ya mgongo and meko trooping to own items they have always desired but now are on offer! The internet has worked wonders for supermarkets which use marketing campaigns to drive foot customers through social media pages.

Supermarkets thus entice shoppers into momentous buying via exciting store layouts, product packaging and in-house promotions. They never fail. Convenient payment methods through credit and debit cards and mobile money and hire purchase have made impulse buying even more impulsive!

Demographics and associated trends have also largely influenced impulse buying. For instance, Kenya’s population is largely youthful and single. Supermarket kitchens were opened to cater for busy singles who have no time for home cooking, but while eating end up leaving with a bottle of whiskey, a packet of cigarettes and a 10 packets of condoms…since most eat when stores are about to close!

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Hungry bargain hunters: Kenyans love bargains. Most Kenyans are single, hate cooking. Local supermarkets combine their needs to make money in truckloads.

Couples who have no children (yet) and single parent households also find supermarkets the best place for eating out while shopping.

Why don’t supermarkets sell mutura, that Kenyan delicacy mostly eaten under the cover of darkness? It surely falls in the category of impulse items!

Then there is that not so small matter of gender.

Wanjugi’s research revealed an obvious truth that most loyalty card holders were working class and business women with secondary level education and above. Women also spent more time loitering in supermarkets comparing prices, reading expiry dates and smelling perfumes and lotions. Men rarely compare prices, hardly buy brands they don’t know and most don’t see the discount items on the isles and hence the promotion lady with a smile as wide as River Nyando marketing chamomile tea!

You know you want tea leaves but is clueless on brand until your eyes cross with the lady promoting Chamomile tea

There are four categories of impulse buyers: The Pure Impulse buyer goes to buy a nail cutter, but the idea of warming food in seconds sees his legs emotionally wheeling him towards the microwave. The low price of the mtungi ya gas sees him hiring a cab home!

Suggestive Impulse Buying occurs when you are going to buy an insect killer but sees a brand of toilet brush and its love at first sight.

The third is Reminder Impulse Buying when the salt stares at you as reminder it’s running dangerously low at home.

Finally, there is Planned Impulsive Buying. You know you want tea leaves but is clueless on brand until your eyes cross with the lady promoting Chamomile tea…and which is twice the cost of the brand at far end of the shelf!

Wanjugi’s research found that while 76 percent of loyalty card holders prepare a shopping list, over 80 percent end up falling in the four categories above. Most were spurred by in-house sales promotions, discounts, gifts and the idea that Sh299 is two hundred and not one shilling as change from Sh300.

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