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Impact of atmospherics on sales of a retail store

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 3829 words Published: 24th Apr 2017

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The retail atmosphere is comprised of different environmental cues, also known as atmospherics that can be intentionally controlled and structured to allow for specific behaviours from shoppers and for a better shopping experience(Turley & Milliman, 2000).

Retail Atmospherics is a term used to describe the manipulation of elements such as colour, light levels, sound, scents and design within your store to influence the buying habits of your customers. The atmospherics of any store can establish positive feelings of excitement, curiosity, and comfort. Atmospheric changes to a stores environment will influence the customers mood or feeling for that retailer. Atmospherics is used to create environments and influence behaviors of shoppers. This is referred to as environmental psychology (Hoffman & Turley, 2002). Studies on environmental psychology suggest that shoppers have one of two responses to an atmosphere: approach or avoidance (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Approach and avoidance behaviors can create four different sets of outcomes: (1) a desire to stay or leave; (2) a desire to explore and interact or a tendency to want to leave and not explore the store; (3) a desire to communicate with others or to ignore them; and (4) feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction (Hoffman & Turley, 2002). Retailers need to understand shopper’s environmental psychology and recognize how to create a space where shoppers will show approach behaviours throughout their entire shopping experience.

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Hoffman and Turley (2002) recognized atmospherics of any facility are composed of both tangible components (the building, carpeting, fixtures, POS decorations, etc.) and intangible components (colours, music, temperature, scents, etc.). The tangible and intangible components of atmospherics are divided into five different categories which include all of the atmospheric variables: (1) the exterior of the store; (2) the interior of the store; (3) the layout and design variables of a store; (4) the point-of-sale (POS) and decoration variables of a store; and (5) the human variables associated with the store (Turley & MIlliman, 2000). Here I mainly focussed on the general interior atmospheric elements of a store.

There are five significant interior atmospheric variables used by various retailers- (1) color scheme,

(2) lighting,

(3) music volume,

(4) temperature,

(5) signage, and

(6) scents.


The basic objective of this paper is to show that the interior of a retail store plays a major influence on the shopping behaviors and purchasing decisions of a shopper. The atmospheric variables located inside a store include the flooring/carpeting, color schemes, signage, lighting, music, scents, tobacco smoke, width of aisles, wall composition, paint/wall paper, ceiling composition, merchandise, temperature, cleanliness, and public address system (P.A.) usage. Interior atmospheric variables are extremely important because all of these variables have an effect on a shopper’s approach/avoidance behaviors, their time spent in the retail store, and ultimately on the products they plan to purchase (Turley & Milliman, 2000).


In methodology here I explained below the various ways or methods by which various retailers generally make their interior atmospherics better or unique.

(1) Color scheme

Color schemes used in a retail store can influence a shopper’s store and merchandise image, arousal level, time spent in the store, purchasing rates, pleasant feelings, and the ability to attract a shopper toward a retail display (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Different color schemes can also create different emotions from shoppers. There are two key color schemes that are known by shoppers around the world; cool and warm color schemes. A ‘cool’ color scheme includes colors such as blues and greens. This color scheme is labeled as ‘cool’ because blue is considered to be expressive of tranquility and tenderness. A ‘warm’ color scheme includes colors such as reds and oranges. This color scheme is labeled as ‘warm’ because orange/red is considered to be expressive of desire and sexuality. Using the different color schemes in a retail store can mean different things to shoppers and can create different emotions from shoppers. For example, using blue, green and white close together is associated with peaceful, gently, and calming meanings whereas using red, gold, orange, yellow and purple close together is associated with emotional, vibrant, hot, active, and sharp meanings. Studies have shown that shoppers have higher purchase intentions with ‘cool’ color schemes, specifically blues, than with ‘warm’ color schemes, specifically reds. The color schemes of a retail store can greatly impact and influence a shopper’s shopping behavior and purchasing decisions (Chebat & Morrin, 2007).

(2) Lighting

Lighting is a significant component of retail atmospherics because it affects the shopper’s visual evaluation of everything in the store, including the merchandise, which can ultimately affect a shopper’s shopping behavior. Lighting is primarily used to create an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere for shoppers as well as for function so that shoppers can see the merchandise and their way around the store. Not only is lighting used to make a retail space more aesthetic and functional but it can also create certain behaviors without the shopper even knowing. The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) Handbook states that the primary goals common in the lighting of merchandise are to attract the consumer, to initiate purchases, and to facilitate the completion of the sale. Lighting is one atmospheric variable that does not directly influence sales but can influence the shopper’s perception of store image and their examination and handling of merchandise (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Studies have shown that shopper’s handle and examine significantly more items in a brightly lit room than in a dimly lit room because brightly lit rooms create a higher arousal for shoppers. The correct lighting of a retail store will create arousal and pleasure for shoppers which will also increase the approach behaviors of shoppers (Summers & Hebert, 2001).Now what my own experiences say? Many times we shop in shopping malls , take the example of clothing .It happened with me that I purchased a shirt and a t-shirt from Big-bazaar and there it looked amazing.Even my friends convinced me to take them because they too find them to be cool enough.I purchased them even though I didn’t need them.Now what happens is that when I reached home ,I found them to be different.I became amazed to see them because they just look different in the normal room light.If previously I would have known that,then my decision would be obviously not to purchase them.I thought what it could be that fooled me.Actually it’s the lightings in the retail store which make a greater impact in the minds of the consumer at the point of decision making of purchasing them.It’s this lighting which actually initiates the urge in you to buy the commodities even if you don’t need them actually !These lightings are done by CFL’s and other various types of lights which are not usually used in Normal homes.Though I must say that many other factors are responsible for that apart from Lightings.All are discussed here.

(3) Music volume

Music is the most common atmospheric variable studied because it does have a major impact on a variety of shopper behaviors. This includes sales, excitement, perceptions and actual time spent in the store, in-store traffic flow, and the perception of visual stimuli in the retail store. Music is a significant variable for retailers to focus on when deciding on the correct atmospheric variables of their store because music can actually influence a shopper’s decisions and behaviors when they are not even aware of the music. There are many different aspects to music that can have an affect on shoppers. The age of the shopper; the tempo of the music; the volume of the music; the shopper’s music preference and familiarity to the music; the use of background and foreground music can all have a significant impact on a shopper’s behavior and purchasing decisions (Turley & Milliman, 2000). Background music is known to be a tool for increasing sales and enhancing positive attitudes toward the store. Background music has been known to create soothing or arousal cognitive feelings from shoppers. Studies have shown that higher arousal music directly affects the attention span of shoppers. An increase in arousal can narrow the shopper’s attention to a limited number of objects. Therefore, their capacity to process information is reduced which means they are more likely to use simpler decision rules. Studies have shown that shopper’s involvement is low when soothing music is playing which helps the shopper concentrate on the task; it gives them the ability to focus their attention. Music plays a major role in shopper’s shopping behaviors and should be an important atmospheric cue for retailers on which to concentrate.


Time is an important factor in retail shopping, partially because studies show a simple correlation between time spent shopping and shopping and amount purchaseds (cf. Milliman 1982). Also, time is argued to be as much a constraint on consumption as money and that predictions that individuals would have more time at their discretion in the future than in the past have not proven to be true (Berry 1979). For example, dual career families with children coping with the transportation difficulties in dense metropolitan areas may feel intense time pressure when shopping. Consequently, it is reasonable to expect individuals to budget their time, including shopping times, and to be concerned when they believe they are spending too much time in a store. People simply don’t enjoy waiting too long or wasting time. Hornik (1984), for example, reported that shoppers overestimated their waiting time less when they reported a high level of shopping enjoyment relative to other activities. Thus, retailers would be prudent to to minimize perceived as well as actual time spent shopping for their patrons.

Field research by Yalch and Spangenberg (1988) suggested that music affects shopping times. In their study, clothing store shoppers were exposed either to a youth-oriented foreground music or adult-oriented background music. Interviews with shoppers as they were exiting the store revealed that younger shoppers felt they had shopped longer when exposed to background music, whereas older shoppers felt they had shopped longer when exposed to foreground music. Unfortunately, actual shopping times were not observed so it could not be determined if individuals shopped longer, merely thought that they did, or a combination of both factors.

(4) Temperature

Temperature of a store is another atmospheric variable that can influence a shopper’s shopping behavior. Temperature, however, is an atmospheric variable that goes unnoticed by shoppers unless it is set at unpleasant levels for the shopper. For example, temperatures set at unpleasantly high or low levels may be noticed by shoppers and can cause them discomfort while shopping, while comfortable temperatures will not be noticed by shoppers (Wakefield & Baker, 1998).


Signage refers to the collection of signs,posters and labels that the retailer uses outside and inside the store to guide customers in their use of the store.These elements together fulfill a number of different functions:


The retailer uses signage to advertise the store;strengthen retailer’s image;protect its market and promote the products on offer.It will also communicate the retailer ‘s policy on various matters,such as the type of product, quality, price and customer services.This can also serve to support the retailer’s planned high-brand/own-brand mix.


The retailer can vary in-storage signage to locate and identify the goods on offer .Large stores need to display directional signage in order to guide customers round the store and from one place to another.Directional signs should be large enough to be seen clearly by the customers when entering a store.They should customers where to go for any category of product or service.Even larger stores,particularly those on more than one level ,also need to have a store guide.This should be clearly visible from the entrance and the path to the guide clearly marked out so that even the first-time customer can clearly see where to go.The store guide is often repeated on different floors for custom convenience.The colours used in directional signage should be easy to read and not clash with the store environment.The signs may also be visual,using symbols as well words ,particularly where the symbol is widely used.Large three dimensional signs are easily visible and can be used to promote the image of the store as well.Hanging signs from the ceiling is often used to enhance the visibility of the signs.

(c)Category Signage

It is used within the particular department or sector of the store. They are usually smaller than directional signs. Their purpose is to identify type of products on offer and they are usually located near to the goods they refer to. However they can often be promotional of one or more categories of product..

(d)Promotional Signage

It may refer specifically to special offers .These may be displayed in windows ton entice the customer into the store.For instance ,value fashion stores for the younger woman may display large posters in their windows of models wearing the items on special offer. This draws attention to the products and does not get in the way of the customer peeking through windows .With the right colour products,the posters can add the attraction of the store.

(e)Point of sale

These signs are placed near the items they refer to.This is so that the customer can see the price and other detailed information.Some of this information may already be on product labels or pack-aging.However,point-of-sale signage can quickly identify for the customer those aspects likely to be greater interest,such as whether the product is on special offer.

(f) Lifestyle Images

The retailer may use various images ,such as pictures of people and places to create moods that encourage that encourage customers to buy the products .These are part of the visual merchandising that the store uses.

To visualize the use of various signage we should we should begin with the customer entering the store and progress to the inspection of individual items.The marque or logo on the outside of the store is the first sign customers will see.This must be clear,distinstive and convey the image of the store in a manner attractive to its customers.Dark reserved greens with traditional lettering(in old book style) convey a no-nonsence approach to basic good quality products that is reassuring to young and old alike.This has been used to good effect bu Marks & Spencer,with its dark green lettering on a creamy background.However,this can go too far and may persuade some of its younger customers that the store I not for them .This style can be contrasted with that of the supermarket chain Asda,which uses a bolder,lighter green logo in modern letters to welcome customers.

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A wide variety of stores use red in name signs as it is eye-catching, stimulating and reinforces the message of good value that the bold lettering uses.Different types of store to use this approach are supermarments(Tesco),food discounters (Lidl).electrical retailers(Dixons,Currys,Comet),variety stores(Woolworth) and similar stores.Some super-markets,such as Morrison’s and the discounters such as Netto use black on yellow.These colours can be contrasted with the orange colour used by upper-end supermarket Sainsbury.Its colour and rather anonymous logo indicated the kind of clientele this supermarket was aiming for and placed the emphasis more on quality rather than on value.As Sainsbury was forced in the mid-1990s to take note of the value movement in super-markets it also had to rethink its logo and use of colour.

Signage is one of the most important ways used by retailers to convey their message to the customers. The retailer’s store name, promotions, pricing, and product information may all be conveyed through signage.

As a customer walks by any store, they have few seconds to know what they will find inside. Professional signage will attract the customer, provide just the right amount of information and invite the customer to enter the store or try the product.

Unprofessional signage is confusing to the customer and sends a negative message about any store and product. Common problems include too many signs, ambiguous or misleading messages, spelling errors or signs that are difficult to read.

(6) Scents

The scents in a retail store can also strongly affect a shopper’s shopping behavior. Studies have shown the biggest impact of scent comes from the presence or absence of a scent in a retail store whereas the nature of the scent does not have a significant impact on shoppers’ behaviors. Scents in a retail store, whether they are good or bad, can affect and influence sales; processing time; variety seeking behavior; and the shopper’s perceived time spent in the store (Turley & Milliman, 2000). As a scent becomes more intense, shopper’s reactions and behaviors tend to become more negative. Scents are an extremely important atmospheric variable for retailers to focus on because they can create positive and negative shopping behaviors from shoppers (Turley & Milliman, 2000).

Cleanliness and store organization are also important factors for successful retail operations.Cleanliness of a store is the most controllable atmospheric element in a retail store. Cleanliness is important because most shoppers associate the quality of a retailer and its products with the cleanliness of the store and it has a strong influence on shoppers’ opinions of retail stores and services (Wakefield & Blodgett, 1996).


So what we conclude is that Retail Atmospherics is very much important and it certainly have an impact on the sales of any retail store. From the above writings, we get to know that factors like signage, lighting, colours, music, temperature and even scent play a very crucial role and can be used to control the customer. For instance, they can:

1.enhance the customer’s perception of the store

2.structure the customer’s decision making and purchasing behaviour

3.focus on certain aspects of goods or services offered

4.steer the customer from one area of the store to the next.

Now below there are 10 important points which every retailer must check out in order to retain their valuable customers and not to lose them:-

1. Dirty Bathrooms

This customer pet peeve clearly deserves the number one spot on this list. Retail store restrooms should always be sparkling clean, whether they are open for public use or not. Make sure to stock the bathrooms with plenty of paper products, soap, trash receptacles and clean it daily.

2. Messy Dressing Rooms

Keeping the dressing room area free of discarded hangers, tags and empty packaging goes beyond creating a neat store appearance, it is also a good step towards loss prevention. Take a quick look for out of place items after each customer uses the dressing room.

3. Loud Music

Playing music in a retail store can help create a certain atmosphere for our shoppers. Music that is too loud, inappropriate or of poor quality can run a positive shopping experience.

4. Handwritten Signs

In this era of technology, there is no excuse for displaying handwritten signage. It is too simple to print a sign from our computers or use pre-printed signs. Printed signs simply look more professional and signs with hard-to-read handwriting can be a customer turn-off.

5. Stained Floor or Ceiling Tiles

It is true, accidents happen. However, our customers don’t have to see them. Dirty carpet, stained flooring and ugly ceiling tiles can turn off many shoppers. Sweeping, vacuuming and mopping should be done on a regular basis. Consider hiring a professional cleaning crew to polish tile floors. Replace stained portions of carpet and ceiling tiles where possible.

6. Burned-out or Poor Lighting

Replace any burned out light bulbs as soon as possible. Make sure all customer areas of the store have ample lighting and take into consideration shoppers with aging or less than perfect eyesight. Your store should be well illuminated for all customers.

7. Offensive Odours

Customers understand if they visit a lawn and garden centre they will have to deal with the smell of fertilizer. The same goes for shoppers of a feed supply store. Certain odours are understandable and may even appeal to the customer’s sense of smell. However, shoppers don’t want to smell an employee’s lunch drifting across the store. Use neutralizers to combat any offensive odours.

8. Crowded Aisles

Consumers like a selection but not if it means sacrificing comfort while shopping. Be sure your store is designed to allow adequate space between aisles and keep walkways free of merchandise. Cramped spaces can ruin a shopping experience and turn off a customer.

9. Disorganized Checkout Counters

A stack of hangers, returned merchandise and sloppy work areas behind the checkout is a huge customer turn-off. This particular area where a customer’s financial transaction is taking place should not show any signs of disorganization. Like messy dressing rooms, a disorganized checkout counter can lead to theft. Keep those register areas neat and tidy.

10. Lack of Shopping Carts/Baskets

Your type of retail shop may not require a shopping cart or your store may be too small, but there’s not a single type of retailer that wouldn’t need at least some sort of shopping basket. If you hope for your customer to purchase more than one item in your store, be sure to have an adequate supply of shopping carts or baskets on hand.


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