According to global research firm Ipsos’ “Consumer Health & Safety Index,” Whole Foods Market, Costco and Trader Joe’s have emerged as the retailers most trusted by consumers to protect customers and associates from becoming ill from the coronavirus. The ongoing health-and-safety benchmarking study evaluates how retailers in seven industries are operating amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ipsos first surveyed 2,000 Americans to determine which health and safety attributes are most important to consumers in the current COVID-19 retail environment, and then conducted thousands of mystery shops to gauge brand compliance to these attributes across 45 major U.S. brands.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, the top-performing retailer in the study, demonstrated near-universal compliance with associates wearing face coverings inside its stores (98%), adhering to 6-foot boundaries during customer interactions (91%), installing plexiglass barriers at checkout (95%), and providing contactless payment (87%) at the locations visited.
At Issaquah, Washington-based Costco, ranked No. 2 in the study, associates at 83% of stores visited wore face coverings properly outside the store and employees at 95% of stores visited wore masks properly inside the store, while 94% of stores visited had social distancing markers present inside.
Monrovia, California-based Trader Joe’s earned its third-place ranking through its consistent, active monitoring of traffic and guest occupancy; the company far surpassed all of the other grocery retailers in this area, with 94% of stores visited engaged in this process at the entrance.
“The ability to deliver on health and safety efforts is now the most important aspect of the customer experience, and it will be for some time,” asserted Nick Mercurio, EVP and service line head of U.S. channel performance at Ipsos, whose North American headquarters is in New York. “We found that 62% of shoppers would stop shopping at a retailer not taking health and safety seriously. Ensuring protections are in place to keep consumers safe, healthy and loyal in the 6-foot economy is the primary driver that inspired our inaugural ‘Consumer Health & Safety’ index.”
The study uncovered large gaps between consumer health and safety expectations and what was seen at the stores, including the following:
- Employees in 25% of the stores visited wore face coverings improperly or not at all.
- Employees in 51% of stores visited weren’t wearing gloves.
- 77% of the stores visited didn’t provide any hand-sanitizing or handwashing solution at the entrance.
- 82% of the stores visited didn’t provide any hand sanitizing or handwashing solution at checkout.
- 64% of the stores visited had no staff actively cleaning interior high-traffic areas such as carts/baskets, counters, credit card readers, doors and demos.
- 31% of the stores visited had no plexiglass dividers at checkout.
- 58% of the stores visited weren’t seen to be managing the number of customers entering.
Costco is No. 5, Whole Foods Market is No. 24 and Trader Joe’s is No. 28 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer's list of the top food retailers in North America.