1.06.2006

The impulse pineapple

So there’s this part of retail that everybody knows about, but nobody thinks about. It’s called the Impulse Section. Generally located right up front by the registers, you basically can’t avoid it. While waiting to pay, a thought mysteriously materializes out of nowhere – “I like gum. I will get some.” You hadn’t planned to buy gum, but there you are, fishing for the extra 89 cents. You crazy, impulsive risk-taker you.

Now, while most of us buy impulse items from time to time, most stores don’t really take advantage of the impulse department. There are a few commendable exceptions – once while standing in line at H&M, I watched two separate women in front of me each pick up, consider and then buy these cute, ruffly, $6 umbrellas. Now that’s smart impulse because an umbrella is an often-overlooked-yet-to-some-degree-life-saving accessory.

But usually impulse consists of candy, gum, magazines, soda, batteries and maybe a random weird thing like the Dueling Banjos Chipmunks (which I once bought, on impulse, at a Walgreens). The section is full of afterthoughts and accessories. It's stuff you don't need. It’s totally unplanned and often irrational.

That is why, last week in Target, I was surprised and delighted to see a big rack of pineapples right up at the register.

Just imagine the shopper's thought process. “I like pineapples. Huh. I never thought of buying a pineapple before. But here they are, I can just pop one in my cart, and maybe put it in my kitchen. Make it into a fruit salad. Perhaps throw a tropical party."

The pineapple is such an unlikely candidate for impulse, and looks so out of place, it's hilarious. Unlike a Snickers bar, you can't open it right now and take a bite if you're hungry. Unlike gum, it's not convenient to just grab and pop in your purse. Unlike batteries, you don't need it for anything! It has neither the entertainment value of magazines, nor the thirst-quenching perceptions of soda! It's a pineapple!

But I think that Target is onto something - they usually are. Why keep impulse the way it's always been? Why do things like every other store, just because it's safe? I think safe is an endangered species, and I think Target does too.

So maybe Target had a surplus and needed to move some giant fruit, fast. Maybe Target knows that pineapple rarely makes the shopping list. Maybe Target realizes that its key shopper, the young mom, wants to feed her family healthy food and that a pineapple is a great way to remind her about fruit. Maybe Target saw that shoppers didn't like to carry a pineapple around the store in their baskets (they are kind of precarious). Maybe people are buying toilet paper at Target, but getting produce at the grocery store, and Target is trying to bolster its fresh food image.

There are a million possible reasons, but who knows. Maybe Target is just fun and quirky. I see some empty spaces at the top of that display - looks like someone's already made the impulsive pineapple decision today.

3 comments:

George said...

Can a store be all impulse? Just checkouts, and impulse racks, full of National Inquirier, AAs and Red Vines?

Elliott said...

I've always thought that if stores put beer and wine up front that they would rack in the sales. Seriously, you run in to get cat food and toliet paper, go up to the check out and ... hmmmmm, why not grab some wine?

Christina said...

I've noticed Safeway putting bananas up near their registers lately too. It's a nice change from the norm.

On the flip side, I usually shop at a grocery store that sells organic produce and they still have chocolate and other decadent goodies at their register...mind you they are organic...and fair trade.