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London - It may seem as though shops play Jingle Bells and Merry Christmas Everybody to spread some festive cheer among customers.
But it might be a cunning ploy to make shoppers spend more.
Researchers have found that festive muzak in the shops encourages people to part with extra cash.
A study by Royal Holloway University in London shows that songs such as All I Want For Christmas or I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day will put people in the mood to spend a little more.
Dr Alan Bradshaw, senior lecturer in marketing at Royal Holloway, said: “Festive jingles are force-fed to Christmas shoppers in a bid to change their mood, influence their sense of time and what sort of products they buy.
“In other words, this is an attempt to manipulate your shopping habits in a way that you might barely be aware of.
“Often we are told that we have the freedom to choose where we want to shop, but during Christmas the use of music in this way is so ubiquitous that our freedom to choose disappears.”
Bradshaw, of the School of Management at Royal Holloway, and Professor Morris Holbrook, of Columbia University in the US, investigated the idea of culture being imposed on consumers.
They found that examples based on the use of background music – or muzak – support concerns that culture is degraded by marketers as a means of social control.
Many retailers have been found to “dumb down” the music to ensure that the customer is at ease and is subconsciously influenced.
Bradshaw said: “Not only is this bad for musicians and the dignity of their work, representing a triumph of commercial greed over artistic creativity, but it can have negative social implications, like promoting a culture of non-listening.
“Whether you’ve finished your Christmas shopping or not, it’s important for us all to be more aware of what we are listening to.”
The findings come after separate research discovered that simple smells in stores induce shoppers to spend more.
Cash register receipts and in-store interviews revealed a significant bump in sales when the pervading aroma was an uncomplicated one.
Researchers say this is because the scent is more easily processed, freeing the customer’s mind to focus on shopping.
Over three weeks, Swiss researchers watched more than 400 customers in a St Gallen home decorations shop as the air was pumped with a simple orange scent, a more complicated scent of orange-basil blended with green tea or no particular scent at all.
The researchers noticed that one group of about 100 people who had shopped in the presence of the simple scent on average spent 20 percent more money – and bought more items. – Daily Mail