Why it’s impossible to buy only one thing in Kmart, according to science

We knew it wasn't our fault!

We all know the feeling…

You walk into Kmart with the intention of buying a specific lamp (that you even checked your closest store had in stock as to preempt any sidetracking), only to come out with four new pillows, a brand new side table, sixteen chocolate bars and a pie maker that you most definitely didn’t need.

Turns out, there is actually a scientific reason as to why you just can’t leave an outlet chain with only one item. 

The phenomenon has been dubbed the ‘Target Effect’, with Urban Dictionary (a website which defines slang terms and phrases written by users) describing it as ‘the result of going into a store, intending to buy a few things, and leaving with much more. Frequently happens while shopping at Target.’ 

However, the effect is not just simple slang made up to help us feel better about our impulse purchases but an actual scientific theory. 

Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at New York University, told Refinery29 that because stores like Walmart and Target have such a large inventory, they can place products strategically to trick your brain into make cross-category associations.

‘Stores have an idea about the path [shoppers take],’ he said. ‘Walmart was once famous for doing things like putting like Band-Aids next to fishing hooks and things like that. Something you don’t naturally associate, but once you see them there, it makes sense.’


Psychologist Dr. Kevin Chapman told the publication that another reason Target in particular can make people more impulsive is because of the store’s ‘happy aesthetic and design style.’ 

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