Shop Treatment

Eyelevel taps into the inner workings of the consumer’s unconscious.

By Kasey Cordell November 9, 2009 Published in the December 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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WHEN YOU WALK INTO MACY’S to do your Christmas shopping this month, which way will you turn? Conventional wisdom says you’ll turn to the right. But Ed Halla, the client services director for Eyelevel, a Czech-based retail branding firm that’s spent the past 15 years telling stores how to attract (and steer) shoppers’ attention, knows better. “Customers go whatever way the displays direct them to,” he says. The company—whose clients include Intel, Adidas, Fred Perry, and Lee Jeans—recently relocated its North American headquarters to Portland’s Swan Island. We stopped by the new digs for a lesson in the psychology of shopping: how to make your store work better, and how to know when a store is working you.


Humans are attracted to moving images—mesmerized, even. Just ask the staff at outdoor brand Icebreaker’s W Burnside Street shop, where digital picture frames draw customers deeper into the store with flashing images of beautiful merino-clad people lounging around glacial-fed pools. Come for the pictures; leave with the jacket.


It takes about five calories to bend down to pick up a pair of five-pocket jeans, but that’s five calories too many for most people, apparently. Products placed at eye level regularly outsell those placed lower, so stores put their most popular—and often priciest—items here, and relegate the cheap stuff to the deep bend. Underpaid oenophiles should already be aware of this principal.


News flash: teenagers are impulse buyers. If a matching scarf is displayed next to a top a teen just picked up, odds are she’ll snap that up, too. (That’s called “cross-merchandising” in retail-speak.) But adults don’t bite, Halla says.


Buckets equal bargains in most shoppers’ minds. So if you want someone to pick up that $50 English silk tie (and, thus, potentially buy it), dump it in a bin with a bunch of other ties. On the other hand, if you want to sell sophistication, go with glass. A $4 chocolate bar encased behind glass says, “I’m worth every penny.”

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