Here’s Why You Spend So Much Time (And Money) at Target

Science has finally cracked the code

Have you ever stopped into Target to grab toilet paper and then BAM, three hours later you’re unloading a new planner, five lip glosses, Christmas decorations (even though it’s August), kitty litter, a month’s worth of snacks, and a teeth whitener kit you just had to have? Don’t worry, we’ve been there too. #noshame

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If you’re wondering why you can’t seem to control yourself in Target while other stores don’t even tempt you, well, the cat’s out of the bag — the five target bags full of stuff you kind of didn’t need, that is. Researchers have finally figured out why we spend so much time (and money) at Target. It turns out, it’s all in the playlist — actually, the lack of playlist.



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Unlike most stores, Target does not play music nationwide, and this has a major effect on your shopping habits. Music has been found to be a huge mood booster, which, in turn, leads to productivity. Aka, the silence in Target stores does anything but keep you focused on your shopping list, which leaves you wandering aimlessly through aisles and aisles of things you don’t necessarily need but want. Actually, I really did need that corn on the cob stuffed toy for the dog I don’t yet have; I take that back.

If you do saunter into a Target store this week and it happens to be playing music, it’s because the mega retail chain is currently testing out tunes in some of their stores. Currently, they’re testing out 65 stores, but this number could increase to 180 by the end of 2017. A spokesperson for Target revealed that the music will be “upbeat, positive, and [have] a playful personality.” But will this make us spend less? We’re not so sure. If music boosts mood, aren’t you more likely to purchase things when you’re happy? While you’ll be more focused in the store, we doubt our spending will decrease. For that, we’ll simply have to rely on willpower.

It isn’t just music that makes you want to spend at Target, either. Have you ever left Target and thought, “This store just gets me.” Well, that’s because it really does. Target gets you like a creepy stalker ex, if we’re being honest. Target has their demographic research down to a science, so it knows exactly what products you’ll like and what to charge for them. David Loranger, a retail and consumer behavior specialist explains, “They look at who you are tangibly (how much money you make, your gender, where you live, do you have a family) and psychographically (your hobbies, lifestyle, ethics), and mix their product, price, place and promotion in various combinations that resonate with who you are as a person.” No wonder we just had to have that throw pillow for our couch… 

Target also understands your mind when it comes to money. If fact, they’ve made a game of it. If you think you’re getting a super cool special deal, you’ll buy more for the rush of the savings. They have the Target Red card, the store credit card, and their app, all promising discounts. Joe Hancock, a merchandising professor who used to work for Target, explains, “It makes shopping a game. In reality, Target should mark things down at the right price in the first place. Instead, these discounts make you feel like you’re getting a deal when you’re actually not.” 

Just because you think you’re getting a deal at Target does not mean you like a cheap experience; in fact, it’s the opposite, and Target knows this. Target wants you to feel like you’re having a luxury shopping experience. This is why the lighting is bright, the stores are clean, the product isn’t stuffed to the brim on shelves, and the employees are super friendly. Better mood = more buying. “Target likes to borrow strategies of higher-end retailers like Nordstrom,” Hancock explains. “You don’t see 50 t-shirts in Target stacked; it’s only a few in every size. It creates the notion that it’s a specialty item, giving you the impulse to buy it because it makes you think that it’s more special than it really is.”  Ohhh…It’s all making sense now. We like to feel special, thrifty, and understood. Got it. 

Now that you’re keyed into all of Target’s cheeky tricks, we say create the ultimate focus playlist and go to town. Just because Target’s really good at their job doesn’t mean we should deprive ourselves of shopping there, right? Shop on!

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