The Truth About a Cluttered Store

We’ve all visited one – A cluttered store. Whether it’s a big-box store, jam-packed jewelry shop, or crammed craft store. Why do retailers do this? Well lately it’s probably more of staffing issues than anything else and we should give some leeway. People are doing the best they can.

But did you know that there is some psychology behind a cluttered store that shows people take out their wallets and spend more in this type of environment?

  • If there is an abundance it gives you the idea that there are deals within the chaos. Everyone loves a deal, but at what cost? Are you willing to hunt through chaos to save some money or wouldn’t you rather avoid the overwhelming clutter?
  • If there are fewer items you will think the items are more costly. No deals! Ask yourself if what you perceive is really true. Would you rather pay more for a better (calmer) shopping experience?
  • Seeing so many things in disarray triggers our hunting instinct, which we unknowingly act on. If you are a hunter of a good deal then walking into a cluttered space will jump-start your instincts. But is that what you really want to be doing with your time?
Did you know that there is some psychology behind a cluttered store that shows people take out their wallets and spend money? Share on X

A cluttered environment may bother you at home, but consider your reaction to a cluttered store on your next visit to a retail store.

For more on the subject of how clutter affects us read Tidying up: The psychology of clutter and why we’re now cleaning it up here.

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Janet Schiesl

Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization.

She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client.

Janet is a Past Board Member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO were she has been named Organizer of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

Janet Schiesl

Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization.

She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client.

Janet is a Past Board Member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO were she has been named Organizer of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

17 Comments

  1. Linda Samuels on August 21, 2023 at 8:18 am

    This is fascinating. So much psychology goes into store design and enticing people to shop. I know how color and scent influence purchases, but I didn’t know about the clutter factor you described. For me, I prefer a less cluttered store. I find the crammed shops overwhelming because everything is screaming for attention, making me want to leave. It’s too much visual stimulation.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:44 pm

      It’s so interesting to learn that about clutter, isn’t it? It’s incredible the stuff we don’t realize is affecting our decisions.

  2. Janet Barclay on August 21, 2023 at 9:33 am

    I agree, this is fascinating! I’ve never given this much thought, though if a store is very spacious and neat, I will assume it’s beyond my budget and leave. On the other hand, a super cluttered store feels junky and I’ll also leave.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:44 pm

      Ha, I like that. Either way, you’re not going to be tricked!

  3. Diane N Quintana on August 21, 2023 at 9:33 am

    This is very interesting, Janet! Personally, I avoid over-crowded stores. They confuse me and I find it difficult to identify what I may be looking for in the chaos. Also, I have to admit, I only shop when I am looking for something specific. If the store makes it hard for me to find the category of item I seek I will leave within a minute or two.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:45 pm

      Clutter stores are visually overwhelming and nicely categorized stores make it easier to get in and out.

  4. Jonda S Beattie on August 21, 2023 at 9:40 am

    What a fascinating read. I personally hate cluttered stores and stores that are huge. When I shop (and I hate to do so), I am a woman on a mission, and I want to get in and get out. But, like Janet, if I am in a store that is super neat, with only a few items on display, I will feel that this store is out of my price range. But I know clients who love to shop and digging around and looking for a bargain would make them happy.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:46 pm

      A lot of us organizers find them overwhelming it seems like!

  5. Seana Turner on August 21, 2023 at 11:28 am

    I find this so interesting. I actually enjoy a cluttered store, when I have time to shop and treasure hunt. Like when you go into an old antique store and things are just piled everywhere – so fun! However, if I need a particular item, and I have limited time, I don’t enjoy having to sift through mis-labeled, crowded racks and shelves.

    I guess for me it comes down to what is wanted/needed on any given day.

    Fun post idea!

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:46 pm

      There is a charm to the old clutter antique stores for sure! Yes, it definitely depends on what kind of shopping experience you want based on what you’re shopping for to begin with.

  6. Julie Stobbe on August 21, 2023 at 2:44 pm

    I had heard that some stores will “messy up” display tables because things sell better for the reasons you mentioned. When I am in at Costco ( not very often) I see them neatly folding and stacking clothes by size. I was surprised they would pay people to do that when a messy table sells better. I wonder what is behind Costco’s research.

    • Hazel Thornton on August 24, 2023 at 5:50 pm

      Here’s my theory: Costco customers are loyal and shop there knowing they will get a good deal on everything in the store. And it’s easier/faster to find what you are looking for if it is neatly stacked by size. So they, unlike other stores, probably do sell more if it’s neat.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:47 pm

      Interesting, isn’t it? Seems like stores go all in one way or another.

  7. Julie Bestry on August 21, 2023 at 4:46 pm

    This just proves to me that I don’t think like a typical consumer. (Perhaps this is a professional organizer thing?) If items are not arrayed neatly and in an orderly fashion, I’m likely to buy only the thing I came to purchase, or may leave without buying anything at all. I’m very “focused” visually, so much so that it was YEARS before I realized Facebook had ads in the sidebars because I never, ever looked to the left or right, only to the center feed. If I have to shop at a disorderly or overflowing store, I’m so much more likely to make a beeline for the thing I want and get out before I get anxious about the potential distractions. A little clutter (like Kohl’s clearance rack) is OK because it’s isolated to expected places, but if I see things on the wrong shelves all over, I’m out of there!

    That said, I agree that a large store with fewer things on display may appear to be more luxury-oriented. (Think haute couture shops, Apple stores, fine jewelry stores.) But if I know I’m going to a store that primarily sells non-luxury items, I can’t imagine neatness will incline me to think the price is higher.

    This is really intriguing. Thank you for sharing!

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:48 pm

      This seems to be the consensus among organizers – we don’t like the clutter!

  8. Hazel Thornton on August 24, 2023 at 5:45 pm

    I’m like most of the others who have already commented, wanting my stores to be at least medium tidy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find the psychology fascinating! I hate second hand stores partly because clothes are crammed together too tightly…although, if they ever had anything nice in my size I might be able to overlook that.

    • Janet Schiesl on August 25, 2023 at 3:48 pm

      I like the term ‘medium tidy’. I also think that’s a good level for a store.

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