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I Smell a Deal

Big spender? It might be something in the air

Author Jacqueline Detwiler

IF THE BLOCK-LONG CLOUD of fresh-baked-bread aroma that surrounds most Subway shops is any indication, retailers are well aware that scents can help attract customers. However, the allure might not be as unconditional as it seems. Researchers from Washington State University and Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen recently exposed more than 400 customers at a home décor store to either a simple orange scent, a more complex scent of orange, basil and green tea, or no scent at all. They found that those exposed to the simple orange scent bought more items and spent an average of 20 percent more than the other two groups did. Another of the researchers’ experiments—in which undergraduates solved more word problems in less time while smelling the orange scent on its own—indicated that a simple aroma might enhance “processing fluency,” allowing people to, say, make spending decisions more easily. In other words, if you’ve got a lot of shopping to do, steer clear of the perfume floor. Or find a Subway.

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