The COVID-19 Impact: Are Consumers Still Afraid To Shop In Stores?

A growing number of consumers feel unsafe in shopping malls, warehouse clubs, and big box retailers, according to a new survey.

Even as more major retailers require customers to wear masks in their facilities, a recent survey by First Insight found that when considering where to shop, a growing number of consumers still feel unsafe in shopping malls, warehouse clubs, and big box retailers. According to the July survey, 32 percent of respondents feel unsafe or very unsafe when visiting shopping malls compared to 29 percent in a similar survey conducted in April. Warehouse clubs saw a similar uptick (20 percent versus 18 percent), with small increases in big box retail (18 percent versus 17 percent).

The number of respondents who said a face mask policy makes them feel most safe shopping in-store increased to 84 percent in July from 79 percent in April, with temperature checks at the door also important to more consumers (71 versus 69). However other practices were important to fewer consumers now versus in April, including store-provided hand sanitizer (78 percent versus 80 percent), limiting the number of people in-store (77 percent versus 80 percent), one-way directional aisles (67 percent versus 71 percent), and no-contact payments (68 percent versus 76 percent).

The study also found that, of the generations, Baby Boomers still feel the least safe returning to the shopping environment overall: 73 percent of Baby Boomers surveyed said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, compared to 71 percent in April.


By comparison, consumers are feeling more safe visiting essential businesses like grocery stores than they did in April (11 versus 13 saying they feel unsafe or very unsafe) with drug stores holding steady at only 15 percent feeling unsafe. Worth noting, more consumers are feeling safer visiting local small businesses with those who feel unsafe shopping there dropping to 17 percent from 21 percent at the end of April.

“Retailers need to be aware that while people are shopping and there is definitely pent-up demand, many consumers are still very much afraid to be in-store and to try products or use dressing rooms,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “We are seeing increasing coronavirus case numbers in states across the country, and retailers are definitely solidifying their COVID-19 policies to help customers feel safer, including mandating masks be worn, limiting people in-store, and conducting temperature checks. As stores continue to operate during the pandemic, it is critical that retailers communicate with their customers, understand expectations when it comes to safety, and simultaneously offer the products they need. Those that do will have the greatest chance of success in this difficult environment.”

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