Report: The Retailers With the Best In-Store Safety Practices
Between mid-July 2020 and early August 2020, NAPCO Research conducted an in-store review of 100 top retailers’ COVID-19 safety measures based on 29 unique criteria, including signage, safety messaging, traffic, technology, and friendliness/experience. The resulting report highlighted the top performing retailers, emerging trends in COVID-19 readiness, best practices for retailers, and the main areas for improvement.
To evaluate their progress in the months since, an identical follow-up assessment was conducted in mid- to late December 2020. Part two of this report reveals the results of this second assessment, including comparisons between the findings of the first and second rounds.
Best Buy Sets the Right Example
Best Buy led all retailers by earning 79 percent of all possible points in the second round of assessment. Its particular strengths were in the safety and traffic categories, such as using social distance floor stickers and barriers to help shoppers move safely through its checkout and customer service lines.
Best Buy was followed by Target, which earned a score of 76 percent. Target’s strong safety measures, consistent messaging, and promotion of technology to assist shoppers helped it obtain a top ranking. L.L.Bean finished in third place, earning 72 percent of the total possible points. It effectively used signage both to inform shoppers as well as move them throughout the store to checkout. Here's the ranking of the top 10:
When looking at the results across all 100 retailers evaluated, just shy of half (49 percent) improved their scores, while more concerning, 51 percent saw their scores decrease. In many of the individual categories, there was little change between the two assessments. Scores in the signage category dropped slightly from 49 percent to 47 percent. Technology and friendliness measures each went down by 1 percent, to 36 percent and 29 percent, respectively. And while individual companies’ scores in the safety category showed changes from the first assessment to the second, overall, the category average remained at 68 percent of possible points earned.
The biggest overall jump in scoring occurred in the traffic category, from 49 percent of possible points earned to 55 percent. Since last summer, more retailers have adopted measures that move shoppers through their stores safely.
In-Store Safety Trends Emerge From Evaluations
In addition to the scoring referenced above, the report features insights on a number of trends that revealed themselves upon evaluation of the data and in-store visits. Here are some of them:
- Masks Continue to Be the New Normal: Mask-wearing compliance is near universal for shoppers (98 percent, a slight increase from 96 percent in the first assessment) and employees (100 percent in both rounds).
- Signage Remains an Area Ripe for Improvement: Ninety-four percent of retailers scored well on using signage to promote face coverings, up from 90 percent in the initial assessment. However, retailers earned just 48 percent of available points overall in the signage category. Retailers primarily use signs to inform and remind customers of precautions they should take to reduce the risk of
spreading COVID-19. Retailers should add more signage to doors, fixtures, and at sanitizer stations wherever they are located.
- Traffic Safety Measures Are Lacking for Many Retailers: Stickers, arrows and barriers are used to ensure social distancing and prevent bottlenecks in high-traffic areas of stores. On average, retailers earned 55 percent of possible points in the traffic category. While this number represents an increase from 49 percent in the first assessment, retailers can improve scoring by moving obstructions and changing some high-traffic and narrow areas to one-way.
- Low-Touch With Contactless and Curbside: Retail stores are increasingly using technology to create a less-friction, more convenient payment experience (80 percent offer contactless) and purchase pickup. For example, many retailers have invested in inventory and order management systems to facilitate buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) as well as curbside pickup options (29 percent did so in the second assessment). For the category overall, however, retailers on average scored only 35 percent of possible points in the second assessment, down from 36 percent in the previous round.
- Positive Messaging Helps Merchants Set a Welcoming Tone: Some retailers differentiate themselves by warmly welcoming customers to their stores, using bright and cheery signage, embracing mask-wearing and other safety practices, and supporting local community causes. Overall, however, this time retailers averaged 29 percent of available points in this criteria category, a dip of 1 percent from the first assessment.
For more on retailers' preparedness levels for creating safe, convenient and enjoyable in-store shopping experiences, including the ranking of the top 25 retailers by overall score, download Retailer Readiness: COVID-19 In-Store Safety Index, Part 2. In addition, the report features real-life examples of retailers' in-store safety protocols, as well as a list of tips that they can implement to help them make their stores consumer friendly, both now and post-pandemic.
Related story: Retailer Readiness: COVID-19 In-Store Safety Index - Part 2