This peculiarity trickles down even to the most seemingly insignificant detail. So, despite its arbitrary appearance, it comes as no surprise that the shelf placement of items at grocery store chains is a product of an often long-fought war among brands and companies.
In short, the products that remain at eye-level are generally more successful in the market than those buried at the bottom or top of the display, according to grocery store officials in the area.
Ashley Zepernick, a spokesperson for Raley’s Supermarkets, said her company coordinates shelf placement in order to create a logical flow and provide the ultimate shopping experience for customers.
“Ultimately, our goal is always to make our customers’ shopping experience as easy and best as it can be,” Zepernick said. “We keep best-selling products in easy locations while highlighting the products currently on sale.”
Zepernick said Raley’s does not have companies pay for better location in their stores and that it would rather help customers see all their options than adopt a financed system.
Whole Foods Market operates similarly. Chris Coffin, grocery coordinator for Whole Foods Market Northern California, said in an email that his company does not group items on shelves based on fees.
“Grocery and Whole Body departments have regional category managers who review sales and movement data to determine what items are strong and should remain in sets, and what items are not performing and should be removed,” he said.
When asked whether shelf placement made a difference in the company’s sales, he responded with a brief but telling “yes,” adding that marketing on a shelf can help draw a shopper’s attention.
To some researchers, this observation is not new. The Japan Consumer Marketing Research Institute recently conducted an experiment that tracked consumers’ eyes while purchasing alcohol in a Tokyo convenience store. The study found that, as Coffin explained, there is indeed a “golden zone” on shelves: the center of the rack at just below eye level.
Blind Dog Coffee Company, based in Gardnerville, has its products in Raley’s Supermarkets across northern Nevada and can attest to the golden zone.
“Oh, sure it matters,” said Mark Berry, co-owner of Blind Dog Coffee. “In some stores when we first started we were placed at the very bottom of the shelves and it did not move.”
There seems to be about an 18-inch vertical space at eye level that really moves your product, Berry said.
“Eye level is where you want to be,” he said. “People are so accustomed to walking down an aisle and having their eyes focused at that level.”