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A new consumer trends survey indicates that long lines contribute to shoppers naming grocery stores as the "worst" in-store experience.

Supermarkets provide the least enjoyable retail experience: survey

Shoppers cite long lines, high prices, frustrating in-store employee interactions

Consumers rated supermarkets as providing the worst in-store experience of any format, according to a recent a survey from retail technology provider Theatro.

The report found that 38% of respondents said they were likely to have an unenjoyable experience in a supermarket, followed closely by department stores (34%) and convenience stores (30%). Mattress stores (12%) were least likely to provide an unenjoyable in-store experience, followed by furniture stores (14%) and clothing stores (16%).

The report found that consumers overall enjoy shopping at retail stores less than they did before COVID — 41% of respondents said their in-store shopping experiences are less enjoyable than they were in 2019, compared with 21% who said their experiences were more enjoyable.

The results indicate that consumer expectations for speed, convenience and getting answers to their questions quickly have increased as a result of their increased use of ecommerce sites during the pandemic, according to Theatro.

“Consumers prefer physical retail for a lot of reasons, such as the ability to see and feel products before buying them, and the immediate gratification of taking a product home,” said Chris Todd, CEO of Theatro, in the report. “But they’ve also become more accustomed to the advantages of e-commerce, such as avoiding long lines and having an almost infinite amount of product information at their fingertips. This makes them more impatient with the in-store experience.”

Theatro conducted the survey using The Pollfish platform among 600 consumers on Jan. 9, in order to capture consumer perceptions of the recent holiday shopping season.

Among those shoppers who said their in-store experience was less enjoyable than before the pandemic, 60% cited inadequate staffing levels, and 64% said they believed stores have more poorly trained or underprepared staff than in 2019.

Consumers rated the following aspects of the 2022 holiday shopping season as being the most frustrating:

• Long lines and crowds: 62%

• High prices: 50%

• Limited availability of popular items: 36%

• Difficult parking: 30%

• Difficult or rude staff: 24%

• Unknowledgeable or unhelpful staff: 22%

• Poor store layout or organization: 16%

When asked, what were the most common problems they encounter with the employees at physical retail stores, 41% cited a “lack of helpfulness or willingness to assist” and the same percentage cited “rude or unprofessional behavior.” In addition, 35% said employees had a “lack of product knowledge or expertise,” and 33% said employees had a “lack of knowledge of where products are located in the store or whether they are in stock.”

These frustrations can lead shoppers not to return to that store, the survey found. Half of respondents — 50% — said they had stopped shopping a specific retail store because its employees were unknowledgeable or unhelpful.

The survey found that 91% of customers said they conduct at least half of their shopping in stores, as opposed to online. Among those respondents who said they do most or all of their shopping at physical stores:

• 76% said they prefer in-store shopping because they like being able to see and touch the product

• 44% said they like the immediate gratification of taking the products they buy home with them

• 25% said they like the social aspect of shopping

• 21% said they like being able to ask questions and get help with purchases from in-store employees, and

• 20% said that it’s easier to return items at a physical store.

Among the 9% of respondents who said they do most or all of their shopping online, the majority (62%) cited convenience as a reason for this preference.

A significant number of respondents — 39% — said they shop in physical stores less often than in 2019, compared with only 24% who said they shop more often, while the rest said they shopped in-store at about the same levels as before the pandemic


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