Retail Shoppers Are Making Fewer Impulse Purchases in the Checkout Line Thanks to ‘Mobile Blinders’


The snake-swallowing slow death of print media isn’t just affecting cute puppies (although that remains the single most important dilemma facing this generation) — it’s also affecting impulse purchases in supermarket checkout lines.

Concerned crap-peddlers are searching their souls for answers to consumers wearing “mobile blinders,” the phenomenon of mobile phone fixation that keeps people in supermarkets, for instance, from buying a Milky Way candy bar or a new issue of Cosmo. See, for years companies like Hearst relied on the unendurable boredom of waiting in checkout lines behind people who’d overloaded their grocery carts with different kinds of manual-entry produce. The captive audience of queuers would be enticed to buy a glossy magazine in order to numb their frustration. These days, however, a lot of shoppers have mobile phones, and, instead of seeking solace from a checkout line magazine, they browse the Internet and maybe compose haiku-like texts that will annoy their loved ones.

Bloomberg reports that companies like Hearst, which sells 15 percent of its U.S. magazines at retailers, is looking to salvage the supermarket magazine market because sales, not surprisingly, are down:

The problem has worsened in the past 18 months, as more than half of all Americans now carry smartphones, Loughlin said. Single-copy sales of U.S. consumer magazines fell 8.2 percent in the second half of 2012 from the year-earlier period, according to the industry group Alliance for Audited Media.

The downward trend in retail magazine sales, moreover, has created some strange bedfellows. The “mobile blinders” phenomenon doesn’t just keep gossip rag publishers up at night — it also plagues the otherwise candy-coated dreams of wholesome confectioners. The so-called “gum” category saw sales decline by 5.5 percent last year, according to Hershey Co. Chief Executive Officer John Bilbrey. Realizing their common interests, magazines and candies have teamed up to offer odd cornucopias of consumer goods in retailers like CVS and Kroger Co. supermarkets:

To catch consumers by surprise, companies are setting up more temporary cardboard displays around stores, sometimes offering unexpected combinations of products. Shoppers browsing the aisles of 1,500 Kroger Co. supermarkets may stumble upon a display offering a $3 discount on a six-pack of Diet Coke and an issue of Cosmopolitan.

Who knew that independent bookstores and mass-produced chewing gum would have so much in common? I mean, other than the fact that they both rely on the continued destruction of our rainforests…

Shoppers’ ‘Mobile Blinders’ Force Checkout Aisle Change [Bloomberg]

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