Creating an Impulse Shopping Environment Maximizes Sales

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor
Written 9/10/2010/Revised September 9/19/2011

What happens once a customer is in your store? How do you change the “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? The answer is in creating a desirable shopping environment that triggers impulse behavior and ends in a sale. A veteran retailer and owner of Parkleigh Gift store in Rochester, NY, Jeannine Klee, captures the impulse spirit in every corner of her store, 6500 square feet to be exact.

When we think of an impulse item, we think of the typical lower price point product placed at the point of sale. While they are important to sales, impulse buying goes beyond the product. It is about creating an atmosphere that invites customers to explore, interact with the product and ultimately triggers the desire to buy. “You can make almost anything an impulse,” says Jeannine.

There are a few ways in which Jeannine creates an impulse environment:

Build a story around the product’s core value

“I take into account what something feels like when you touch it, what color it is, if it makes a noise or if something shouts out at you “this is how I sell best” and if you figure out what that is, then you have to make it connect with the customer,” says Jeannine.

If the predominant value of a product is its color, create a color story that will draw your customers visually. If the fabric, the feel or touch is what makes a product, make sure the customer interacts with it. Take it out of packaging, put it in their hands and the product will speak for itself. If the product has a unique story, tell it. Start out by picking up the item and saying “Did you know”.  Stories create an emotional connection to the product and add a value beyond its physical attributes.  Appealing to your customer’s senses: the look, the feel, the smell, creates an impulse buy.


Placement is key in maximizing impulse buying and Jeannine strategically integrates product vignettes throughout the store.  For example, recently Jeannine brought in a new item, a Fish Condo by Umbra, and within hours of displaying them they were gone. A perfect impulse item.  Impressed with the success of this item, she ordered more. Instead of displaying them at the point of sale, Jeannine will create a fun table display and place it in her Crabtree & Evelyn department.  By doing this she is adding a surprise element to her personal care section and drawing attention to an area where she wants to increase traffic.

With eleven departments carrying everything from children’s to gifts, accessories, personal care, coffee, tea and more, Jeannine cross merchandises products throughout the store which helps to draw customers into areas where she wants to create attention

Promoting & Marketing

Events bring traffic through the store and are one of the best ways to maximize impulse purchases. Parkleigh holds up to five events a month, many focused on particular vendor brands such as Vera Bradley, Troll Beads and iota by C.R. Gibson.

“Our iota event was one of our best vendor events thus far,” says Jeannine. Kelly Alford herself, visited the store, met customers and signed journals.  “We had people standing in line just to shake her hand.” One of the local candy companies, made home-made chocolate truffles and Parkleigh gave away starter journals to each customer. A simple event that generated tons of traffic and buzz and was covered by a local newspaper.

Outside of events, Facebook is a great way to generate curiosity about your products and attract customers to visit. Parkleigh does a great job marketing themselves on Facebook and have grown to over 2500 fans since they started the page in March (2010).

Overall, it is about merchandising and playing off on the product’s core attributes. However, Jeannine does bring in true impulse items at lower price points. Positivity bracelets by Alexa’s Angels is a great example. Every employee in the store wears them and tells the story of passing on the positive. It’s a display that’s constantly refilled and a perfect impulse item with a story.

“When I walk into my store, I pretend to be a customer and let myself see what’s screaming at me and what isn’t. I am very visually oriented. I can put my hands on a ton of stuff in my store and create a vignette around it and find out how it speaks best to the customer.” As Jeannine said, anything can be turned into an impulse item if you let your products shine and demand attention.

Getting ready to celebrate their 50th year in business  in October (2010), Parkleigh’s business continues to blossom. Their sales are up from last year in all departments and customers are buying. So how do you turn a “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? “Make your store an experience each time a customer walks in,” says Jeanine. “Surprise them visually; appeal to their senses; grab their interest from their first step to the final check out.” It creates an impulse environment and keeps customers coming back time and time again.