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Shoppers adjusting behaviors to avoid public restrooms

Restroom cleanliness is more important than for stores and restaurants.

American consumers are planning their shopping trips specifically around the call of nature in order to avoid public restrooms amid the pandemic, according to a survey by Big Red Rooster, a JLL company. Thirty-six percent of the respondents said they have planned shorter shopping trips to avoid using public restrooms.

For the study, Big Red Rooster partnered with Engine Insights, the research and analytics division of Engine, and surveyed 1,000 representative U.S. adults in September 2020 about what they expect of the post-COVID public restroom. 

“Consumers are constantly thinking about safety,” said Emily Albright Miller, VP of strategy at Big Red Rooster. “Especially when it comes to the cleanliness of public restrooms.”

Clear communication surrounding cleaning protocols, including visible, consistent time stamps of the last cleaning can help consumers feel safe, Albright added, and could also have a direct impact on whether or not they choose to browse another rack or order another drink.

“It is important for organizations to understand and adapt based on what consumers need to feel safe,” said David Albert, managing director, Engine Insights. “The less time people spend at a specific location, the less they will spend with that business. To avoid a negative impact on the bottom line, it is critical for brands to commit to the restroom amenities that help consumers feel safer in public restrooms.” 

According to the results of the survey, 98% of consumers believe restroom cleanliness is important and 42% have used public restrooms significantly less than they did before the pandemic. 

In other findings:
•    One-third have left a public restroom without using it due to lack of cleanliness;

•    9% have used a portable toilet to avoid going into a public restroom; 

•    12% say they or a family member has urinated outdoors to avoid a public restroom; and 

•    15% report holding their breath during their restroom trip.

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