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Whole Foods, Panda Express, Wells Fargo tops in store safety, health measures

The grocery store sector is the best industry adopter of recommended COVID-19 precautions, followed by big-box stores and the financial services industry.

That’s according to the second wave of Ipsos’ Consumer Health & Safety Index, which sent out mystery shoppers to locations across the country to determine which retailers have implemented adequate health and safety measures amid the ongoing pandemic. 

The results revealed several top performers, with Whole Foods maintaining its No. 1 position on the Index since the first wave report by demonstrating consistent performance across the store exterior, interior, and restroom. Whole Foods also topped the grocery sector.

Other top overall performers included fast-casual eatery Panda Express, which excelled in ensuring near-perfect compliance of employees wearing PPE properly, and Wells Fargo, which did an excellent job of installing health & safety signage reminding customers of social distancing practices. 

“We are witnessing a century-old approach to customer experience make monumental changes in a matter of weeks and months; it’s really quite impressive,” said Shohini Banerjee, senior VP at U.S. channel performance group at Ipsos. “Many of the COVID-19 precautions and improvements are not small or inexpensive—they’re a complete shift in how employees behave and how products and services are distributed—a total disruption that retail has taken in stride.”

In addition to Whole Foods, the top brands in the grocery sector were Trader Joe’s, and ShopRite. Costco was among the top performers in the big-box sector.

Whole Foods outperformed competitors in the grocery industry in several categories, including having health & safety-related signage, store cleanliness, compliance with employees wearing protective gear, barriers to enforce distancing and availability of sanitizing options.

In other Whole Foods’ metrics:

• Employees at 76% of Whole Foods stores visited were seen actively cleaning high touch areas, as compared to an industry average of 59%;

• Associates at a 100% of Whole Foods stores visited were observed to be wearing masks properly, and 98% of customers were observed to comply with the mask policy; and

•    99% of Whole Foods stores had some sort of social distancing enforced in store, including closing every other check-out lane, closure of self-serve food & beverage stations, etc.

•    Trader Joe's: Trader Joe’s dropped one spot compared to the first wave of the Index and emerged as No. 3 on the Index in the second wave, demonstrating exceptional health & safety efforts on both the exterior and interior of its stores. Trader Joe’s scored the highest among all 33 retailers included in the Index on enforcing distancing measures throughout the store journey.

•    ShopRite: Shoprite was added as a new entrant to the second wave of the Index and emerged as a top performer. Shoprite demonstrated strong performance across a variety of areas, including placement of barriers in store.

•   Costco: Costco slipped three places in the second round of the Index and ranked No. 5 overall, but still demonstrated strong health & safety-related performance across all aspects of the in-store experience, including restrooms. Costco scored the highest among all 33 retailers included in the Index on installation of barriers across the customer journey.

The report noted that even among brands that are generally considered to be doing a ‘good job’ in their COVID-19 prevention efforts, there are still fairly lax safety protocols on the ground level, particularly when it came to sanitization, cleanliness, and restrooms. 

More findings are below:

•    Only one in three retailers (33%) provided hand sanitizer inside the store entrance and roughly one in four provided hand sanitizer at checkout (28%), the No. 2 driver of trust among consumers.

•    Only one in four retailers (28%) had restrooms with visible and up to date cleaning schedules displayed, which is one of the top five drivers of trust among consumers.

•    60% of the retailers visited were not observed to have employees cleaning high touch areas with disinfectant, the No. 3 driver of trust among consumers.

•    One in five retailers visited (19%) had no social distancing reminders present inside stores, a top 5 driver of consumers returning to stores.

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