Survey Finds US Shoppers Cautious about Retail Reopening Strategies

female shopper looking at clothing display

As non-essential retailers move to reopen, consumer trust has waned following events connected to the global pandemic. In order to better assess how consumers feel about returning to the physical retail setting, MySize—a retail measurement technology company— surveyed 1,500 people across the US. The results offer a glimpse at how consumers view the current in-store shopping experience and their pain points with e-commerce operations.

The data derived from this survey revealed that consumers still crave a personalized shopping experience but appreciate contactless technology-driven solutions. Consumers trust retailers and brands that implement new rules, such as private fitting rooms and requirements for holding returned clothing, in order to feel safer about returning to stores post-COVID.

The survey also showed that the majority of consumers do not trust their clothing will fit them without physically trying apparel items on, which shows how critical contactless measurement technology will be to the future retail experience. Following are the key findings from this survey.

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Are Consumers Ready to Shop in Stores?

Nearly three quarters (71%) of consumers say that they feel comfortable shopping in-store at non-essential retail locations following the coronavirus pandemic.

The majority of those polled (30%) said they would feel comfortable shopping in-store again immediately:

  • 26% of consumers will wait 2 weeks after the stores reopen to shop in-store.
  • 18% of consumers will wait 1 month.
  • 14% of consumers will wait 2-3 months.
  • 11% of consumers will wait over 4 months after stores reopen to shop in-store again.

Females are more hesitant to return to stores than men. The majority of women (28%) will wait 2 weeks after the stores reopen to shop again. The majority of men (36%) will return in-store immediately after stores reopen.

Gen Z is also much more cautious than any other generation to shop in-store again. A whopping half of Gen Z will wait 2 weeks before shopping in-store again. Majority of Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers will all return in-store immediately.

Where Will They Likely Shop?

The majority (49%) of consumers say they will feel most comfortable shopping at small, local retailers following the pandemic:

  • 35% of consumers say they will be most comfortable shopping at department stores following the pandemic.
  • Only 16% of consumers say they will feel most comfortable shopping at standalone specialty retail stores.

The majority (59%) of Baby Boomers said that they will feel most comfortable shopping at small, local retailers, while the majority (43%) of Gen Z respondents said they feel most comfortable shopping in department stores following the pandemic.

Shoppers say they are the most uncomfortable to shop in-store for three categories of merchandise:

  • 49% are uncomfortable to shop for apparel now.
  • 33% of shoppers are uncomfortable to shop for cosmetics now.
  • 18% of shoppers say they are uncomfortable to shop for shoes now.

What Makes Shoppers Feel Safe?

Post-COVID-19, shoppers said that the following would make them feel the safest when shopping in-store:

  • 28% said requiring contactless payment options and purchases made via mobile devices.
  • 27% said retailers holding returned clothing and/or merchandise for 48 hours.
  • 26% said being able to book a private fitting room in advance that has been properly sterilized.
  • 18% said retailers color coding returned clothing, based on how long ago the item was returned.

The majority of Gen Z respondents (32%) would prefer to be able to book a private fitting room over all other options. Additionally, the majority of male respondents (28%) would also like to be able to book a private fitting room.

The majority of Millennial respondents (30%) said that they would prefer that retailers require contactless payments.

The majority of Baby Boomers (28%) would like retailers to hold returned merchandise for 48 hours.

Similarly, the majority of female respondents (30%) would like retailers to hold returned merchandise for 48 hours.

What Consumers Miss about Pre-COVID Shopping

The majority of consumers (56%) responded saying that the most impacted aspect will be getting to try on items before purchasing:

  • 20% of consumers responded with browsing at their own leisure. Baby Boomers (24%) were the number one group who responded with browsing at their own leisure.
  • 13% said receiving recommendations from store employees.
  • 11% of consumers responded with the social aspect of in-store shopping.

Consumer Trust for Proper Fit of Apparel

A large majority (61%) of consumers do not trust that their clothing will fit without physically trying it on. Baby Boomers were the least likely to trust that their clothing will fit (35%), followed by Millennials (20%).

With the majority of respondents lacking trust in retail sizing, how do the majority of consumers determine their proper fit when making online purchases? The survey results show that when online shopping, the majority of consumers would proceed with their purchase by making a guess on their size for the apparel item:

  • 44% of respondents would make a sizing guess and hope that it fits.
  • 34% of respondents wouldn’t buy the item all together.
  • 22% of respondents would purchase multiple sizes and return unused merchandise at a later date.

Men are more likely than women to purchase multiple sizes and return unused merchandise at a later date:

  • 53% of men would prefer to purchase the item in multiple sizes and return the additional merchandise.
  • The majority of women (62%) would prefer to make a sizing guess and hope that the item fits.

The Reasoning behind Returns

The majority of consumers (77%) reported that the most common reason behind returning clothing merchandise was that the item didn’t fit properly with Millennials returning the most for this reason:

  • 18% commonly return items because it’s not their style.
  • 5% return clothing merchandise because it’s damaged.

Additionally, consumers want convenience when it comes to returns:

  • 53% prefer to return items in-store.
  • 30% want to mail the item back.
  • 16% prefer to curbside return.
  • Less than 1% wouldn’t return the item.

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