Cashing-in on Impulse Buying

It happens to almost everyone. You go to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner, by the time you head out the door your bag is full of extra snacks and goodies. No doubt, America is a nation of impulse buyers. We make unplanned purchases on the spur of the moment to satisfy our cravings or to get an unbelievable deal. A recent OnePoll study commissioned by Slickdeals, a deal sharing website, made a few notable observations about our buying habits.


  • During their lifetime, adults will spend more than $324,000 on impulse buys
  • On average, Americans spend $450 per month, for a total of $5,400 a year on impulse items
  • Americans typically make 156 impulse purchases a year, or 3 per week

How Retailers Can Cash-in
There’s nothing in the rulebook that says home improvement retailers can’t sell quick-turn impulse items such as snack foods, gadgets, and small gift items.  It’s a smart idea since impulse purchases typically have a higher profit margin than other types of merchandise. Based on research conducted by GDMC, the nonfood trade association, the top three non-food impulse categories, are books, barbecue gadgets and,  trial-sized travel items.

Impulse items are one category brick-and-mortar stores can dominate because online shoppers tend to plan their purchases in advance and primarily focus on price and value. In the case of home improvement retailers, the most successful businesses are those who see an opportunity that others often overlook. Don’t be afraid to think outside-the-box and sell impulse merchandise not typically sold in a home improvement store. It takes a little space and some ingenuity.

Grilling Fires Up Sales
Grilling has become an American pastime. Outdoor spaces are used year around for relaxation, entertainment, and cooking family meals. Chefs featured on the Food Network have millions of devoted followers who faithfully watch and wait for grilling tips and time-saving ideas. It’s no wonder that grilling is hugely popular. According to the GMDC report, 63% of grillers make time to grill throughout the year, fueling 97 percent of total category sales growth.

Smartphone Accessories
Has your phone ever powered-down in the middle of a call? It’s not a good feeling. Low-cost electronic gadgets are practical gifts and are convenience items people purchase for themselves. There’s a reason why grocery stores and gas stations sell mini-power banks, earbuds, and keychain flashlights. More than 81 percent of all U.S. mobile phones are smartphones. With over 349 million users, the smartphone accessory industry is booming. Consumers love their phones, and the high level of interaction with mobile devices make accessories ideal impulse items.

Sell Local Products
Specialty products sourced locally are also good impulse items. Some retailers sell inexpensive hand-made jewelry, greeting cards, or bumper stickers and T-shirts representing local schools. Be resources and partner with a local business to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

These are just a few ideas for the types of impulse items that may be good options for your business after you become more familiar with the territory. You’ll also want to sell snack foods, batteries, paper goods, and other convenience items. 

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