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How stores get you to spend more

By Jennie Bragg, producer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The average person will spend 15 hours shopping for gifts this holiday season, according to Consumer Reports.

And whether we like it, or even realize it, stores are filled with tricks and triggers to make consumers spend more.

Before you hit the mall, keep a few things in mind to be sure you don't get duped.

Early bird specials

Retailers across the country have been advertising early bird promotions for those shoppers who are ready to spend some cash even before Black Friday.

While shopping early might help you to score a good deal, in many cases there are limited quantities of advertised sale items.

"The thing that gets people about these specials is the idea that there is a limited quantity of something," suggests Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group. "When shoppers see exact quantities of an item advertised or in the store, they are afraid it will run out and they buy right away."

Retailers usually get multiple shipments of popular items throughout the holiday season, so if you don't get what you need in round one, try again later or look for the item online.

And keep in mind, the prices on Black Friday and around Thanksgiving may be advertised as sales, but retailers have been know to jack up prices during this time and then lower them, leaving the price you pay higher than before.

Promotional mailings

You have probably already received a slew of holiday mailings from various department stores and other retailers, but promotional gift cards are the things that really bring in the shoppers and make them spend.

"We are seeing more and more gift cards sent to consumers without any strings attached," says Britt Beemer. "This could be a ten or twenty dollar gift card mailed to you for use on any purchase."

These types of cards are great for retailers.

Shoppers are lured into a store with the promise of a small discount and often end up spending much more than they ever anticipated.

Many shoppers are also enticed by the idea of buy one get one (BOGO).

Take a step back. Do you need two of this item? If not, walk away.

And remember, nothing in life is free. BOGO is the same as getting something on the sale rack. A promotion like this, while it is still a good deal, is likely giving you 50% off.

Scents and sounds

The ambiance a retailer sets through music and aroma affects your mood and in turn the purchases you make in that store.

"While scents don't always work to keep customers in general retail stores," says Beemer. "This is a technique that works really well in places like William Sonoma when they are cooking something."

And beware of the festive tunes in the background.

"If I were going to have a store, I would be more concerned about the music the customers are listening to than the scent in the room," suggests Beemer. "The Christmas music on in a store can keep people in a store 30% to 40% longer."

If you find yourself humming your way to the cash register, you might want to rethink your purchases.

Sales people and door greeters

Have you ever wondered why it seems like there are so many more sale people in every store around holiday time?

The more people around to tell you your purchase is an excellent decision, the better.

"The store with great customer service and people skills will be the store that makes the most sales," says Beemer. "It is very simple. Sales people who make customers feel like they are making a good decision will make more sales. To top of page

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