Study Finds Consumers Feel Safer Visiting Small Businesses, Less Safe Visiting Malls

More American consumers are feeling safer visiting local small businesses, but less safe visiting indoor malls, according to a recent study from predictive analytics firm First Insight.

The new study, which polled 1,200 consumers on July 10, found that 32% of people feel unsafe or very unsafe visiting shopping malls, an increase of 3% from April 30, when 29% of those surveyed chose the same response. Warehouse clubs and big box retailers saw a similar uptick—1% and 2%, respectively.

Conversely, the percentage of consumers who feel unsafe or very unsafe shopping at a small, Main Street–style brick-and-mortar business dropped to 17% from 21% in April. 

While there was no analysis for why shoppers would feel more comfortable in a small store than a big mall in the study, the reasons why that could be are obvious as this: Smaller spaces are generally easier to disinfect, keep clean, and air out than large indoor spaces. Less easy to measure (but surely an impetus for many shoppers’ increased comfort in small stores) are the marketing and customer education efforts on the part of indie retailers.

The study also found that consumers are feeling safer visiting grocery stores. Eleven percent of those polled said they felt unsafe or very unsafe getting groceries, versus 13% in April. Drug store stats held steady, with 15% of people saying they felt safe or unsafe in both polls.

Of all the demographics, baby boomers still feel the least safe returning to the shopping environment overall, the study found. Wisely so, as older adults are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. To cite one baby boomer statistic from the study: 73% of baby boomers surveyed said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, compared to 71% in 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…. As stores continue to operate during the pandemic, it’s 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.”

(Photo: Pexels)

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