Why is milk at the back of the store?

How many times have you run to the grocery store to buy milk? Where is that milk always located? At the back of the store.

Why is that? Most likely, the grocery store wants you to walk past lots of other items that may catch your eye and that you’ll hopefully purchase.

Business Centric

The placement of milk in the grocery store is a very intentional act. The placement originates from the store’s perspective, wants, and needs. It may lead to more impulse buys but it can also aggravate customers who are frustrated at the long trek to the back of the store.

Customer Centric

The last time I was at the local Walgreens (which has really become a pharmacy/convenience store), I noticed they had moved several shelves of cold medicine up to the front of the store.

Since many people come to Walgreens when they have colds and all they need is the medicine, the store decided to make that purchase as easy as possible. Some customers may not fall for too many impulse buys but they do have a better experience. The added bonus is that the store doesn’t have a bunch of sick people wandering its aisles.

This customer centric approach to product placement produces a positive experience with customers that will encourage repeat business.

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  • http://www.allbusiness.com/operations/4057811-1.ht Glenn

    Joe, even though I write a blog on customer service as you do, I’m going to disagree with you here. Why? Customer service is only one component in a business. If I ran a business on a profit margin as razor thin as a grocery store, I’d put the milk in the back of the store with the intention of cross-selling to customers. And I could still focus on customers’ needs.

    Yes, customer service is important, but so is marketing, inventory, and whatever the term is for where a product is placed in a store in order to utilize floor and wall space effectively.

    I say this even though every Wednesday, we run out of milk and I go to the store with the express purpose of buying only milk and then walk out with two sacks full of stuff. And yes, I whine about having to walk all the way to the back:-)

    But if I owned that store, I’d do it their way.

    Hmm. Today’s Wednesday. Better go see if we need milk…


  • http://www.returncustomer.com Joe Rawlinson

    Sure, as a business owner margins are very important. The higher the amount spent per customer, the happier a business will be. I think that retail stores in particular will have to walk a fine line between providing a great customer experience while still having persuasive product placements.

    In my Walgreens example, they seem to be finding that happy medium.

    I hope your milk run didn’t cost you too much this week Glenn!

  • Skip

    Milk is placed in the back of the store for several reasons. Imagine a large fridge in the front of the store. It is surrounded by warm heat. Now imagine a large fridge in the back of the store that is surrounded by a cooler back room. Which is more energy efficient? Also milk is hauled on carts with wheel and some stores even uses these carts to display their milk. Since milk is cold and creates moisture, the carts are always wet. When these carts are moved, the wheels leave nasty marks from the dirt the wheels pick-up. Imagine rolling one of these carts to the front of the store. Store clerks would spend more time cleaning the floors instead of serving the customer. Also milk spoils quickly, so it is placed in the back so that it is the last thing bought and decreases the amount of time it is in the warm.

  • http://www.returncustomer.com Joe Rawlinson


    Thanks for sharing that logistical insight into why milk goes where it does in the stores.

    I think with new buildings and construction, stores could put the milk where ever they wanted. Even on the side up front if so desired.

    It appears the combination of the logistical issues you mentioned plus the additional purchase lure that milk in the back brings, stores will continue to put milk at the back of the store.