Sun. Jul 14th, 2024


For years, unknowingly the stores’ secret to motivate shoppers to spend more during the holidays is the sense of smell. While shopping this holiday season, you might want to take notice of how the stores smell while visiting. Some usually think the lighting and music are the major role players in getting you to spend, but current research says otherwise.  

The smells are simple, as opposed to more complex mixture of scents that are potent when it comes spending, it was reported by researchers at Washington State University. Scents like citrus or pine are simple smells, less processing for the brain of the shoppers, and it helps them focus more on shopping. “what we realized was that simple scents were more effective” said Eric Spangerberg, one of the study’s authors and dean of the Washington State University College of Business.

During the study, researchers developed dual scents; orange, which is considered a simple scent, and a more complicated scent, orange-basil combined with green tea. Researchers observed more than 400 customers in a home decorations store, with the simple scent, the complicated scent and no scent at all; they did this for 18 days.  What they found at the end of the research was that the 100 customers that shopped in the presence of the simple scent spent on average 20 percent more money than those with the complicated scent or no scent at all.

In a series of experiments, researchers and some students solve word problems with the different scents in the air. In the end of the experiments, students solved more problems, in less time with the smell of the simple scent, compared to the complicated scent or no scent at all. Spangerberg said  ” most people are processing it at an unconscious level, but it is impacting them.” “The important thing from the retailer’s perspective and the marketer’s perspective is that a pleasant scent isn’t necessarily an effective scent.”

Recently published in the Journal of Retailing, the study was co-authored by Andreas Herrman from Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen; David Sprott, a Washington State marketing professor; and Manja Zidansek, a marketing doctoral candidate.

Rhonda Bartlett is a fourth-year student majoring in professional studies with minors in theatre and journalism. She can be reached at

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