The weird reason you almost never see clocks in shopping centres

The concept of Time
Have you ever seen a clock inside a shopping centre? (Picture: Getty Images)

In nostalgic days gone by, shopping centres were a hub of social activity.

It was the ultimate way to spend evenings and weekends with friends; and it didn’t always involve spending money. It was just about hanging out. (Think Mean Girls, when Katy is invited to the mall by Regina.)

But, during one of these sessions, did you ever recall seeing a clock on the wall?

The answer is likely no – shopping centres are one of those places where time seems to evaporate, and where a twenty-minute in-and-out trip could easily turn into an hours-long spending sesh.

There’s actually a clever reason why clocks are so scarce in shopping centres – and it’s a little trick called ‘temporal distortion.’ AKA, the act of changing a person’s perception of time.

So, how does it work? And does it make us spend more money?

‘The absence of clocks in shopping centres is a meticulously crafted strategy, deeply anchored in consumer psychology,’ psychologist Laura Geige tells

‘[It’s] designed to extend the duration of your visit and consequently, your expenditure.

‘Shopping centres are engineered to be self-contained universes where the concept of time is subtly manipulated. The deliberate omission of clocks is a strategic element of environmental psychology, aiming to disengage you from the passage of time.’

Woman legs with colorful shopping bags on the escalator in a shopping mall
Shopping centres use a range of tactics to get us to spend more (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

And, as we forget about the time whilst we’re shopping, we’re encouraging a ‘deep involvement’ in the shopping experience. We can’t look away.

‘The longer you remain in this timeless state, the more likely you are to make additional purchases, driven by a disconnection from your external time commitments and schedules,’ Laura explains.

That’s not the only tactic shopping centres use to draw you in: they also create a certain type of atmosphere using controlled lighting, temperature and background music.

‘These sensory cues are designed to elevate your mood, reduce stress, and subtly encourage spending by creating an environment that feels both comforting and stimulating,’ Laura explains.

Meanwhile, it’s an open secret that shops and supermarkets also use techniques to entice people into spending more money.

Ever wondered why shops often have chilled tunes playing? It’s actually a psychological technique.

‘Supermarkets tend to play slower music to give a calm no rush atmosphere leaving you in the store for a lot longer,’ Richard Price, money-saving expert and director of online supermarket Britsuperstore, previously told

‘To battle this when you are doing your weekly shop make sure to set yourself a time [limit] – an hour is a great starting point.’

And over the years, shopping trolleys have got larger – so that we can fit more inside.

‘The larger the cart, the more likely you’ll end up spending more, so try to stick to a handbasket instead,’ Richard explained.

‘Research has found that when the size of the cart doubled, consumers bought 40% more.’

And, the age-old favourite, it’s quite common for pricier products to be placed at eye level.

To find the cheaper alternatives, just try looking a little higher or lower.

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