Shopping cart type can affect people’s spending, study finds


  • Pushing caddies with horizontal handlebars activates the triceps
  • It’s been linked to pushing away the things we don’t like
  • Using carts with handles similar to a wheelbarrow activates the biceps
  • It has been associated with bringing the things we love closer to us

The type of cart can affect people’s spending, and it has a lot to do with the muscles we activate when pushing carts, researchers have found.

Previous research has found that standard caddies with horizontal handlebars “probably” activate the upper arm extensor muscles (triceps), researchers in one study, published in the Journal of Marketing, said.

In psychology research, activating the triceps has been associated with rejecting things we don’t like, just like when we push something away, City University London Noted in a press release. On the other hand, bicep activation has been associated with the things we enjoy, such as when people bring things closer to them.

“The authors thus infer that standard shopping carts may be suboptimal for stimulating purchases,” the researchers write.

For their study, the researchers took a closer look at the standard purchases carts with horizontal handles and newly designed ones that have parallel handles, much like those on wheelbarrows or walkers. The researchers speculated that the new shopping carts with parallel handles would actually activate the biceps, possibly increasing purchases.

A photo of the difference between standard and parallel baskets can be seen here.

“An electromyography (EMG) study found that horizontal and vertical grips more strongly activate the upper arm extensor (triceps) muscles, while parallel grips more strongly activate the flexor (biceps) muscles,” the authors wrote. researchers.

Indeed, a field test found that using the parallel carts “significantly and substantially increased sales across a wide range of categories”, with those using the parallel handle carts spending 25% more than those using standard carts.

“These findings were not attributable to the novelty of the basket itself, the mood of the participants, or purely ergonomic factors,” the researchers said.

Simply put, the use of parallel carts can lead to more spending for consumers and greater profits for stores, while the use of standard horizontal handles can help consumers exert more restraint on their spending.

According to the university, when talking to cart manufacturers, they were surprised at how much the type of handles on carts can impact sales.

“Shockingly, a small change in handle position can have such a big impact on shopper spending. Indeed, handles literally make us flex our buying muscles,” one of the authors of the study, Professor Zachary Estes. of Bayes Business School, said in the press release.

“Conversely, the results of this study could be very useful for consumers as Christmas approaches,” Estes added. “If shoppers want to minimize their shopping and buy their gifts all at once, they can flex their biceps to pull things into their cart. If they want to minimize spending, standard shopping carts can act as a welcome constraint and unexpected to keep unnecessary purchases out of the basket.”

Representative image. Photo: Pixabay

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Peggy P. Gilmore