Though stay-at-home orders have ended and certain retail stores have reopened, not all consumers are rushing to return to their pre-coronavirus shopping habits.

Consumer research company First Insight has been tracking shoppers’ sentiments amid the COVID-19 pandemic since late February. The most recent survey, conducted on July 10, 2020, found that many shoppers are uncomfortable with in-store interactions, and that safety concerns are rising over time in some cases.

Fashion, beauty take a hit

While consumers have been looking forward to returning to their pre-coronavirus routines, many may be finding that it’s taking longer than expected. For example, many shoppers are still afraid to try on clothes. In fact, 68% of women surveyed in July said they felt unsafe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, up slightly from 65% of women previously surveyed in April.

An even higher percentage of women (80%) noted discomfort with trying out beauty products, up from 78% in April. In addition, 61% of women said they feel unsafe trying on shoes.

While women’s concerns appear to be growing, men seem to be feeling more comfortable with the idea of shopping over time. Among male respondents, 46% said in July that they didn’t feel safe trying on clothes in a dressing room, down from 54% in April.

Women also have more concerns about interacting with sales associates, with 63% saying they felt uncomfortable doing so in July, compared with 49% of men. These findings are in line with an earlier First Insight survey that showed greater concerns about in-store shopping among women than men.

Baby boomers have highest level of concern

When it comes to generations, baby boomers were most wary about trying on clothes in dressing rooms, which may be because older adults have a higher risk of experiencing severe illness due to COVID-19. In July, 73% of baby boomers said they felt unsafe trying on clothes in a dressing room, up from 71% in April. Generation Z also saw a slight uptick in concern, with 58% saying in July they felt unsafe trying on clothes, up from 57% in April.

On the other hand, millennials and Generation Xers appear to be feeling more comfortable as time goes on:

  • 45% of millennials in July said they felt unsafe trying on clothes, down from 49% in April
  • 49% of Generation Xers in July said they felt unsafe trying on clothes, down from 57% in April

Consumers are also continuing to feel uneasy about shopping malls and warehouse clubs. In fact, 32% of July respondents said they felt unsafe or very unsafe inside of shopping malls, while 20% said they felt unsafe in warehouse clubs.

Mask policies can make a difference

Retailers looking for ways to make customers feel safe can consider mask mandates. Among respondents, 84% said a face mask policy made them feel the most safe when shopping in a store, up from 79% in April.

Other strategies that would make consumers feel safe include:

  • Store-provided hand sanitizer: 78%
  • Limits to the number of people in the store: 77%
  • Temperature checks: 71%
  • Contactless payment capabilities: 68%
  • One-way directional aisles: 67%

Methodology: The data is part of a series of surveys about how COVID-19 is impacting shopping decisions and behaviors over time. For the most recent survey, First Insight polled more than 1,200 consumers on July 10, 2020. This article also featured data from a survey of 1,000 consumers that was taken April 30, 2020. Other surveys have been conducted in 2020, on Feb. 28, March 17, April 3 and April 20.

First Insight defined the generations as follows: Baby boomers were those born between 1946 and 1964, Generation Xers were those born between 1965 and 1979, millennials were those born between 1980 and 1994, and Generation Zers were those born between 1995 and 2012.