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C-Stores Trail Supermarkets, Restaurants in COVID-19 Safety

New study analyzed consumer trips to retailers across all channels
Filling gas tank
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK — Despite efforts to prioritize COVID-19 safety over the past few months, the convenience-store industry still trails its competitors in this area, according to a new study by global research firm Ipsos.

The grocery industry has made its customers feel the safest during the pandemic, followed by big-box retailers, financial services, food and beverage stores and convenience stores, according to the study. Whole Foods led the grocery category, Panda Express led the food and beverages category, and Wells Fargo led for financial services. Top performers for health and safety across all categories included included Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, ShopRite and Costco.

One in five consumers said they don’t trust any stores across all industries when it comes to cleanliness and safety protocols, and c-stores are among the least trusted retailers, Ipsos said.

With an overall score of 40 out 100, c-stores ranked fifth out of the five measured industries.

“Surprisingly, even among brands that are generally considered to be doing a ‘good job’ in their COVID-19 prevention efforts, there are still fairly lax safety protocols on the ground level, particularly when it came to sanitization, cleanliness and restrooms,” said Shohini Banerjee, senior vice president at U.S. channel performance group for New York-based Ipsos.

More than a quarter (27%) of consumers said they saw hand sanitizer available at entrances and checkout in c-stores, according to the study. Beyond that, 83% said they saw store employees wearing masks—which ranks below the cross-industry average of 91%. Only 28% of retailers had restrooms with visible and up-to-date cleaning schedules displayed, while 60% of retailers didn’t have employees cleaning high touch areas with disinfectant. Finally, less than a fifth (19%) had no social distancing reminders inside stores.

Ipsos complied its Consumer Health & Safety Index between July 7 and 8 to understand which health and safety attributes consumers prioritize in the current retail environment. It conducted the study in two phases: a survey of 2,000 Americans, and a mystery shop study to test these safety attributes across nearly 30 national retail brands, including 7-Eleven, Wawa, RaceTrac, Circle K, Kwik Trip and QuikTrip. The study audited a random sample of 75 to 125 locations per brand.

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