• Market Crumbs

Mystery Shoppers Look For Hand Sanitizer

Image via Brittani Burns on Unsplash

With much of the country having eased lockdown restrictions intended to halt the spread of COVID-19, Americans are slowly returning back to their pre-coronavirus lives.

Despite vital businesses such as those who sell groceries having remained open throughout the coronavirus, many retailers that had been temporarily shut are mostly back in business.

With Americans venturing back to their favorite businesses, research firm Ipsos launched the Consumer Health & Safety Index last week to monitor how businesses are following public health guidelines.

Ipsos began by surveying 2,000 Americans to determine which health and safety attributes were most important in a retail setting. Ipsos then sent thousands of mystery shoppers to the stores of 45 major U.S. brands to see how they followed these protocols.

"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," Ipsos executive vice president Nick Mercurio said. "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."

With more than half of consumers saying they'd stop shopping at a particular retailer who fails to take these precautions seriously, the results don't bode well for some retailers.

The mystery shoppers found that 25% of the stores had employees that wore face coverings improperly or not at all. Only 49% of the stores had employees who wore gloves. 58% of the stores were not monitoring the number of customers entering the store, which violates many state guidelines.

Hand sanitizer also appeared to be a rare find among the retailers, with 77% of the stores not having any hand sanitizer or other solutions at the entrance. 82% of the stores didn't provide any hand sanitizer or other solutions at the checkout counter.

Ipsos pointed out three retailers who topped their list of companies that are implementing the health and safety measures better than others. Whole Foods ranked first, with near universal compliance of employees wearing face masks, following social distancing guidelines and offering contactless payment methods.

Costco ranked second with the retailer performing well in the percentage of stores where employees wore face masks and promoting social distancing. Trader Joe's ranked third, with the grocer performing the best in actively monitoring the number of customers entering the store, which is a factor survey respondents placed a high emphasis on.

Just as consumers aren't shy to shun companies that don't meet their social stances, it remains to be seen if not following public health guidelines could cause consumers to shop elsewhere.

Leftover Crumbs

  • It's officially over. The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed that monthly economic activity in the U.S. peaked in February, marking the beginning of a recession. In doing so, the longest expansion in U.S. history that began in June 2009 officially came to an end after 128 months. The previous record was 120 months from March 1991 to March 2001. The Business Cycle Dating Committee also found that a peak in quarterly economic activity occurred in the fourth quarter of 2019.

  • Never say never. European Central Bank Governing Council member Robert Holzmann told newspaper Die Presse "never say never" when asked about the ECB buying stocks. "Never say never. If the need is there, this discussion will definitely have to take place. But currently that discussion does not exist," Holzmann said. Holzman also warned about the ECB's new goal of becoming greener by targeting green bonds, saying "There are thoughts about becoming greener. One must, however, be very careful because with these instruments the market is often still very small and illiquid."

  • Win-win market. Allianz chief economic advisor Mohamed El-Erian, who predicted a bear market in March, is still reluctant to buy into the market's recent strength, saying "it's an uncomfortable bet to continue to bet on a huge recovery." El-Erian explained "The narrative has been win-win. You win if you look through all the bad data and bet on a massive recovery. And you still win because the Fed will support you all the time. That narrative is so deeply embedded now that it takes a major shock to change it."

  • Where are the sellers? Back on February 19, the day the S&P 500 hit an all-time high, Jim Cramer tweeted "what the hell is happening? Where are the sellers??" The S&P 500 subsequently fell about 35% over the next month. Yesterday, Cramer once again asked where the sellers are, saying "Where are the sellers? It’s almost as if people decided Covid is over. It’s a 'V-shaped' rally, and you better get on board."

  • Hollywood set to reopen. California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health gave the OK for film and TV production to resume "no sooner" than June 12. Production will have to be approved by county officials while proper safety protocols must be adhered to. "Music, TV and film production may resume in California, recommended no sooner than June 12, 2020 and subject to approval by county public health officers," the California Department of Public Health said.