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I need a word or a fixed phrase, something short that describes the following:

the shelves of candies or mints next to the checkout desk of a supermarket

Is there a one-word name for it? I can't find a way to describe it concisely, and I feel like supermarket store culture has, at some point, given a name for it.

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  • 7
    candy rack: google.com/…
    – DyingIsFun
    Jul 12, 2016 at 4:04
  • @Openmind (OP) - can you clarify whether you're asking about the contents of the shelves, or the shelves and their contents? Jul 12, 2016 at 8:33
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    @JoeBlow: there, there, it'll be OK, shhhh... take a deep breath, count to 10... :) (If it helps, I know exactly how you feel. The only fix is to go do something else for a while: no matter how much you want to go around hitting people with a clue-by-four, they all live too far away.)
    – Marthaª
    Jul 12, 2016 at 20:16
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    I mentally refer to them as "screamer shelves", because they seem specifically designed to make children misbehave until their parents buy crap they don't want.
    – Glen_b
    Jul 13, 2016 at 1:15
  • that's a cool coinage, @Glen_b. It makes perfect sense, and it's absolutely immediately obvious what you mean by it.
    – Fattie
    Jul 13, 2016 at 14:47

8 Answers 8

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These are impulse goods or impulse items.

Impulse Goods

Retail items known for their unplanned purchases and, therefore, kept near the checkout counters, such as candy, chocolate, magazines, novelties, snacks.

[businessdictionary.com]

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    I'm not sure I agree entirely with that definition—impulse goods are impulse goods even if they're not right next to the checkouts. I'd say all the shelves being asked about here are impulse goods, but not all impulse goods are of the type being asked about. Still +1 for what is probably the closest there is to a precise definition, though. Jul 12, 2016 at 7:39
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I think your logic is a bit misguided. Saying that there are impulse goods in other parts of the supermarket (other than the checkouts) is irrelevant to the question, which was asking about the shelves next to the the checkouts. Those shelves have impulse goods on them, regardless of where else one might find impulse goods. Jul 12, 2016 at 8:04
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    @Max Yes, but the question was specifically what you call the shelves next to the checkouts. Those shelves are impulse item shelves, yes; but ‘impulse item shelf’ in itself does not necessarily mean one that is next to the checkouts. So this answer gives a good way to describe those shelves, but not an unambiguous way to identify them. I’m not aware of any more unambiguous options, though, which is why I upvoted the answer (and alwayslearning’s). Jul 12, 2016 at 8:28
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    Impulse Buys is also another term for them.
    – aslum
    Jul 12, 2016 at 12:54
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    100% "Impulse Area" referred to as such in literally every retail establishment I've ever worked at, and even some that I have shopped at I have heard referred to as such. Although there may be impulse buys in other sections of the store (seasonal items immediately spring to mind) the checkout area is definitely the one place you're absolutely guaranteed to find all those single-serve candy bars and tabloid magazines.
    – jaichele
    Jul 12, 2016 at 13:27
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This is known as a point-of-sale display (POS display)

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I would go with "impulse display shelf". Google for it and see the resultant images.

(Googling for "candy rack" as suggested by Silenus in comments returns relevant images too; however you want a term to describe the ones specifically found near checkout desks which can and do hold things other than candies like mints, chewing gums and other usually small "impulse purchase" items).

I am not into retail; however, I know why exactly these are placed near checkout desks - to encash the temptation (and consequent impulse) that shoppers feel to just chuck in a couple of those (usually low-value) items into their shopping basket.

[Edit: I realised that dangph already gave a close answer to mine. I did not realise that before posting my answer.]

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  • The fact that "candy rack" could also mean, literally, "the candy rack" (as on "Aisle 8 on the left past the eggs") is irrelevant to the fact that "candy rack" is slang used on the shop floor for the thing under discussion. Ambiguity resolved by context is simply the norm in English, obviously.
    – Fattie
    Jul 12, 2016 at 18:39
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This is sometimes referred to as the guilt lane.

For example:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2014/aug/27/supermarket-guilt-lanes-customers-health-aldi-tesco-sainsburys-marks-waitrose

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  • Sounds like that phrase is indeed often used in the UK, good one!
    – Fattie
    Jul 12, 2016 at 18:29
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Not a direct answer to the question, in that it doesn't necessarily have to be at the checkout, but an "end cap" is a location in retail for promotional goods, on which the stock are generally rotated.

(Retail: Store fixtures and layout) An end cap is a rack or counter at the end of a store aisle used to display promotional or sale items.

I'm adding this answer because it's a useful retail term.

This marketing blog talks about checkout end caps:

An eye-tracking portion of the study found shoppers spend time looking at all areas of a checkout’s end cap

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    This doesn't answer the question, it's referring to a completely different sales display at the end of aisles, which may or may not contain impulse purchases but has no link to the question.
    – March Ho
    Jul 12, 2016 at 10:44
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    @MarchHo - I do say exactly that in my answer. I've added a link to an article that discusses checkout end caps.
    – Ste
    Jul 12, 2016 at 10:46
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    Been in retail for quite some time, and I find that endcaps are generally stocked with heavily advertised items and things that people are actually planning to buy so not even sure that it would fit the question at a broader scope.
    – jaichele
    Jul 12, 2016 at 14:03
  • I'll bow to anyone's superior knowledge of retail as it's not my field at all. If this answer is truly incorrect then I'm happy to delete it.
    – Ste
    Jul 12, 2016 at 14:05
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The actual industry term is 'front end' or 'front end racks'. Anyone stocking product (whether a store employee, sales rep, or merchandiser) told to place products on the front end will know that the products go on the racks by the cash registers.

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You could put toilet plungers on the candyrack and they'd sell like "hotcakes".

Everyone understands what they entice you to do - most people refer to the racks by the checkout counters as the "candyrack" it doesn't matter what's on them - toilet plungers, razor blades, batteries....candy

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  • Nah, if you want to be more general, I'd say "impulse buy racks" or shelves or areas or endcaps or what-have-you. But I would not say a rack full of plungers set up by the cashiers qualifies as a "candy rack".
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 12, 2016 at 14:23
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This is probably too imprecise, but the hyphenated adjective "point-of-purchase" could be used with a noun (display, rack, etc), which would give you two words total, if you accept that the compound adjective is actually one word. And the adjective could be reduced to "POP." Ask someone in management at a grocery store, and maybe she'll reveal an exotic bit of grocery argot.

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  • you know, point of purchase usually refers to the technology involved in payments, not so much the issue at hand
    – Fattie
    Jul 12, 2016 at 18:31
  • Joe: I've heard "point of purchase" for years, definitely predating any tech more sophisticated than an old, low-tech cash register. I distinctly recall it being used as an answer to my question when asking where certain things were kept in the store (lighters, magazines, etc.). "They're up there at 'point o' purchase." But you're probably correct that in more contemporary usage it does refer to some of the technology involved.
    – jkinkc
    Jul 13, 2016 at 20:24

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