Could the Smell of Chocolate Save Barnes & Noble?

In News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

barnes and reports that Belgian researchers, writing in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, have discovered that the ever-so-alluring aroma of chocolate not only inspires bookstore shoppers to stay in the store longer, it also boosts sales of certain genres of books.

A research team led by Lieve Douce of Haselt University described a 10-day experiment conducted in a “general-interest” bookstore in Belgium.

For approximately half of the hours the store was open (either morning or afternoon, depending on the day), the enticing aroma of chocolate was sent into the store via two locations. And while the smell was subtle enough so that it wasn’t immediately noticeable, it was strong enough that people would recognize it when it was pointed out.

The researchers then tracked the actions of every fifth customer to enter the store — a total of 201 shoppers. They reported that when the aroma of chocolate was present, those shoppers tended not only to remain in the store longer, but they looked at more titles, and took the time to talk with store employees.

In addition, when the aroma of chocolate was in the air, shoppers were less likely to search for one specific book and take it directly to the register to immediately check out.

Researchers also tracked the sales of books in four popular genres. A panel of students had previously ranked two of them (food and drink and romance) as most associated with the smell of chocolate, and another two (history and mysteries/crime thrillers) as least likely to go along with the aroma of chocolate. Altogether, 119 of the 201 shoppers tracked by researchers bought at least one book in one of those four categories.

Sales for books in the first category rose by 40% when the smell of chocolate was present. And curiously, sales in the second category rose, by a more modest 22%, but only during the hours when the store was scentless. It seems that customers were more apt to check out crime thrillers and history books when there was no aroma of chocolate in the air.

The results of the study led the authors to offer some practical advice: “Retailers can make use of pleasant ambient scents to improve the store environment, leading consumers to explore the store.”

As Tom Jacobs wrote at The Inquisitr, “It’s certainly worth a try for hard-pressed independent bookstores – or even for a certain struggling chain. Indeed, the customer-pleasing power of chocolate might even inspire thoughts of a merger. Who wouldn’t want to shop at Barnes and Nestles?”

Purchase the full study here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.