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Promotional attention-grabbers force shoppers to run the grocery gantlet

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Need a few things at the market? Grab a shopping cart - here's one with a chocolate chip ad on the front - and hang on tight. Where's the milk? Past the display tree of bargain brooms, under the video rebate offer. Watch out for those cardboard snack centers jutting into the aisles. And steer carefully around the dessert pans, free with a purchase of dessert mix from the display box across the aisle. One lane only around the three plastic stands of cold remedies. Oops, should have ducked under that 50-cents-off sign.

At last, on to the checkout. Got everything you came for? Do you even remember what you came for?

If grocery shopping these days seems like running an obstacle course, blame it on the battle for shelf space. With the costs of media advertising on the rise and retailers threatening to drop products that don't sell briskly, more and more manufacturers are using in-store promotions to grab shoppers' attention.

``Last year $10.8 billion was spent on POP [point-of-purchase promotion], so it's not a stepchild of advertising, by any means,'' says Lisa Eccles of the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute.

A study of consumer buying habits by the institute shows that 66 percent of buying decisions are made right there in the store. Sales of some types of products - such as beverages, canned fruit and vegetables, pet foods, and hosiery - more than double when promoted by some kind of store display.

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