Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe's Lead 'The 6-Foot Economy'

With 61% of Americans admitting they are still apprehensive about returning to physical supermarkets, a new study from Ipsos ranks Whole Foods Market, Costco and Trader Joe’s as the safest, cleanest options.

With the launch of the Consumer Health & Safety Index, Ipsos intends to track consumer perception about what makes stores safe, as well as using mystery shoppers to determine how well stores are delivering on those attributes.

The survey, based on 2,000 Americans, finds that people are taking COVID-19 risks very seriously, with 62% of respondents saying they’d stop shopping at a store they believe isn’t using adequate precautions.

The safety measures deemed essential? Consistent use of company-issued face masks, managing the number of customers entering stores, 6-foot social distancing markers at checkout, employees visibly wiping down high-traffic areas, and plexiglass dividers at checkout.



“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,” says Nick Mercurio, executive vice president and service line head at Ipsos, in an announcement of the inaugural study. “Ensuring protections to keep consumers safe, healthy and loyal in the 6-foot economy is the primary driver.”

Whole Foods Market emerges as the industry’s health and safety all-star, based on rankings from its mystery shoppers. (The mystery shoppers drop in on a random sample of 125 locations per brand.) Whole Foods scored an almost perfect compliance in employees wearing face coverings (98%), with 91% of stores making it easy to respect 6-foot boundaries, 95% providing plexiglass barriers and 87% offering contactless payment.

Costco ranks second, with 95% of Costco associates in face coverings inside stores, and 94% of stores using social-distancing markers. Trader Joe’s comes in third.

But overall, the Ipsos research shows consumers should be nervous about shopping at supermarkets. Adherence to industry guidelines is alarmingly low.

For example, employees at 25% of the stores visited either wore no masks or wore them improperly; 77% failed to provide any hand sanitizing at entrances, and 82% failed at checkout. And in 64% of the stores visited, no one was visibly sanitizing high-traffic areas, such as carts, counters, credit card readers and doors.

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