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This Company Thinks its Data Shows When Shopper Traffic Will Return to Normal

Though many consumers are still wary of braving the risks of brick and mortar to shop for non-essential goods, one company thinks it has nailed down the date when footfall will regain its pre-pandemic levels.

Sixty-one percent of consumers are delaying their return to physical stores over concerns of exposure to the coronavirus strain that causes the deadly COVID-19 disease, Ipsos found in the first survey of its new Consumer Health and Safety Index.

The safety benchmarking study collected the opinions of 2,000 Americans—supplemented by data gathered from 5,700 Ipsos mystery shopper visits to retailers across 45 U.S. brands—and found that

The success of any retail reopening may hinge on whether merchants can create safe, virus-free shopping environments, according to the benchmarking study of 2,000 U.S. consumers and 5,700 Ipsos mystery shoppers visiting nearly four dozen American retail brands.

“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,” said Nick Mercurio, executive vice president and service line head of U.S. channel performance at Ipsos. “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.”

What’s more, Mercurio said 62 percent of consumers would stop shopping at a retailer that failed to enforce its health and safety protocols. Considering these expectations, many retailers are dropping the ball on the virus-mitigation front. Through its mystery shopper visits, Ipsos found that employees at 25 percent of the stores failed to properly wear face coverings—or simply never wore them.

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Gloved employees were even rarer, with 51 percent of mystery shopper visits uncovering some staff without gloves on the job. Courtesy hand sanitizer was only available inside entrances at 23 percent of the stores visited and even fewer, 18 percent, offered hand sanitizer at checkout.

In total, there were no staff actively cleaning high traffic areas like carts, counters, card readers, doors and demos at 64 percent of stores, while 31 percent didn’t have plexiglass dividers separating at checkout lanes. At 58 percent, more than half of the retailers were not observed actively managing the number of consumers entering the store.

Analysts expect consumers to seek out safer and more accessible shopping locations as fears of a second wave keep many indoors despite loosening restrictions.

Retailers have turned to tech to solve this problem, such as adopting technology that makes it easier to keep track of the number of consumers in a store at one time.

Though retail’s big reopening might be off to a slow and inconsistent start, Zenreach says its data shows a return to normal—at least traffic-wise—in the next few months. Billing itself as “the walkthrough company,” Zenreach says though footfall in the U.S. picked up by 6 percent from May to June as more stores welcomed customers through their doors, shopper traffic remains 58 percent off from last year’s levels.

So when can retail expect store traffic to reach levels resembling their pre-pandemic peak? Zenreach’s fully data-driven approach, which looks at a forecasted percentage of normalization trends, predicts that stores will see shopper visits back to “normal” on Sept. 9.

However, the data doesn’t take into account the ongoing protests that have all but thrown social distancing out the window and seen inconsistent adherence to mask-wearing requirements when six-foot spacing isn’t possible. Plus, many people in New York City, once the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, has flouted virus-curbing rules as the weather warms up, promoting Governor Andrew Cuomo to threaten to roll back loosened restrictions that set a Phase One reopening in motion on June 8, according to Bloomberg.