Consumers still afraid to shop in-store as more retailers say “mask up”

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Even as more major retailers require customers to wear a mask in-store, new research from digital product testing and decision-making platform First Insight found that the vast majority of women (80 percent) feel unsafe trying out beauty products, 68 percent feel unsafe trying on apparel in dressing rooms, and 61 percent feel unsafe trying on shoes. This represents an uptick compared to the company’s last study in April when 78 and 65 percent of women felt unsafe trying on beauty products and apparel, respectively.

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

A growing number of consumers feel unsafe in shopping malls, warehouse clubs and big box retailers

According to the survey, 32 percent of respondents feel unsafe or very unsafe when visiting shopping malls compared to 29 percent in the last survey. Warehouse clubs saw a similar uptick (20 percent versus 18 percent), with small increases in big box retail (18 percent versus 17 percent).

By comparison, consumers are feeling more safe visiting essential businesses like grocery stores

Just eleven percent say they feel unsafe or very unsafe now, compared to 13 percent who said so in April, with drug stores holding steady at only 15 percent feeling unsafe. In addition, 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, in a news release. “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.”

Additional findings include:

A growing majority of consumers say mask policies make them feel most safe in-store

The number of respondents who said a face mask policy makes them feel most safe shopping in-store increased since April to 84 percent from 79 percent, 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).

Consumers buying apparel and footwear the most, but purchases increase across every category

The number of respondents that reported buying more apparel has increased 44 percent from April to 23 percent (up from 16 percent). Similarly, 50 percent more respondents are buying more footwear, up from 10 percent in April to 15 percent in July. Thirty-six percent more people are buying more home décor, with an increase of 14 percent to 19 percent. Accessories are also seeing a 30 percent increase, from 13 percent of respondents saying they are buying more compared to 10 percent in April. Home improvement saw the smallest increase in purchases since April, with 23 percent of respondents saying they are purchasing more in this category versus 21 percent in April.

More consumers are delaying travel plans

A growing number of respondents plan to delay flights, road trips and cruises for more than a year compared to April 30th.  Twenty-four percent of respondents said they would wait a year or more to take a road trip less than 100 miles compared to 16 percent in April (a 50 percent increase).

Similarly, forty percent said they would wait a year or more to travel on a domestic flight, compared to 30 percent in April (a 33 percent increase). The number of people waiting more than a year to travel internationally inched up also, with 51 percent of respondents saying they would wait at least a year to take an international flight, compared to 47 percent in April.

Lastly, more than half of respondents (55 percent) said they would wait more than a year to take a cruise, slightly up from April (54 percent).

Consumers still afraid to shop in-store as more retailers say “mask up”

The new findings were revealed as part of First Insight’s ongoing series of consumer studies entitled, “The Impact of Coronavirus on Consumer Purchase Decisions and Behaviors.” Now publishing the sixth study in the series, the company has been tracking consumer data since February 28, 2020, fielding additional studies on March 17, April 3, April 20, April 30 and July 10, 2020. Each survey sample is balanced by gender, geography and generation. Studies are completed using proprietary sample sources among panels who participate in online surveys. 

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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