Retail Sector Scores Big Returns from Tiny Add-Ons

You’ve probably fallen for the trap many times. As you approach the check-out of a retail store, you’re guided through a winding, maze-like line with tiny trinkets on either side of you. There’s an impressive assortment of amusing mugs, greeting cards, candy, lip-gloss, nail polish, and other small treasures that would make a great treat for you or a friend. At first, you’re not interested. All you care about is getting through as quickly as possible. But then something catches your eye, for only a dollar or two. You ask yourself if you really need it, but as the line suddenly starts moving, you decide to add it to your cart before you lose your chance.

Image courtesy of Hawaii Life

You’re not alone. According to, the average American consumer spends $450 a month on impulse buys—that’s $5,400 a year! Food is currently the top impulse buy in the U.S., with clothing coming in second. For struggling retailers, low-cost off-price items with high margins may be the solution for struggling retailers, or business owners hoping to encourage extra sales.

Slickdeals also reports: “85 percent of survey respondents said their impulse purchase involved taking advantage of a deal or discount.” If you’re going to incorporate small add-ons to your inventory, consider offering a buy one, get one half-off deal. Or, offer a $5 and below section that’s well-signed so your shoppers will be drawn to the area.

Francesca Nicasio, Content Marketing Manager for Vend, says, “Make your impulse buys more noticeable and enticing by pushing the right consumer buttons.” She highlights three key points retailers need to invoke: urgency, value, and excitement or novelty. The combination is a surefire sale for any business.

“Price is the determining factor of a successful impulse buy,” says Katy Albrecht, Publishing Editor of Off-Price Retailing Magazine. “When retailers shop the off-price sector, they can find extra add-ons that mix well with their store but also yield high margins for their own profits. Even if a retailer sells a single product for $1.50, you could potentially sell hundreds of units.”

All demographics of shoppers are guilty of making impulse buys, but younger customers are more likely to take advantage. “Studies show nine out of 10 millennials have purchased something impulsively,” says Neil Patel, a Contributor for Quicksprout. That number only increases as the age of the shoppers decrease. If your target customer is a millennial, you should absolutely offer strategically-placed add-ons throughout the store.

In this digital age, impulse buys are still brick-and-mortar champions. According to research by A.T. Kearney, “40 percent of consumers spend more money than they had planned in stores, while only 25 percent reported online impulse shopping.” Impulse buys aren’t as successful online because ecommerce is a different environment. Shoppers don’t feel as rushed; they tend to make less emotional decisions, have more time to review their cart, and often come to online stores with the intention of purchasing a specific item.

“For brick-and-mortars especially, offering small add-ons that are holiday-themed or coincide with the season are a great way to boost margins,” says Albrecht. “A shopper can find what they’re looking for at your retail store, and also pick up a stocking stuffer they may not have had time to buy yet.”

If you’re incorporating impulse items into your inventory strategy, register to attend the OFFPRICE Show, June 11-12 at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in New York City, or August 11-14 at the Sands Convention Center in Las Vegas.

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