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Shopper Trends|May 08, 2020

Through the Retail Industry Lens: Consumers and Wellness

Strategist and CEO Wendy Liebmann takes retail’s temperature in the days of COVID-19

Fiona Soltes // NRF Contributor  //  May 1, 2020

If the coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on one thing, it’s certainly our health. Being well and staying “safe” have become drivers for a multitude of attitudes and thoughts. Even before the virus hit, however, Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper of WSL Strategic Retail, had been keeping an eye on the pursuit of wellness as a significant consumer spending opportunity. NRF spoke with her about the way health, wellness and “caring” will impact retail in coming seasons.

In many ways, the underlying drivers to living a healthy life that we have seen emerge in our “How America Shops” research over the last five years will be ramped up as we move into, out of and maybe back into this pandemic.

You’ve recently explored how different generations have approached the wellness movement. In what ways might the COVID-19 pandemic impact each generation’s spending on wellness in the future?

In many ways, the underlying drivers to living a healthy life that we have seen emerge in our “How America Shops” research over the last five years will be ramped up as we move into, out of and maybe back into this pandemic.

What’s been evident for several years is that everyone has been on a quest for greater wellness and well-being. Over the last decade, we tracked the movement from what we called “sick care to well care”  as economic, social, political and technological change impacted the way Americans considered the value of good health and emotional well-being — for themselves, their families, their communities and the planet.

For younger consumers — millennials and members of Generation Z — even before the crisis, their focus was around taking the stress out of their lives (six out of 10 members of Gen Z said stress was their No. 1 barrier to living a healthy life, vs. 45 percent of the total population).

Everyone, regardless of age, was already looking for ways to create a calmer and more meaningful life (from decluttering their homes to meditating and looking for new hobbies); trying to engage in more sustainable practices (recycling, repurposing, etc.); and using healthier products and services (from immunity-building products and free-from products to acupuncture, yoga, online mental health tools, etc.) This was a national growing phenomenon.

So COVID-19 merely heightens this. This imperative to be well, to take care of our own health, to be preventative, will only grow for younger as well as older consumers. In 2019, we noted in our “How America Shops” study called “The Big Business of WELL” that the passion and demand to be well was the biggest consumer spending opportunity in decades, with opportunities across sectors, products, services, retail formats and more. The current pandemic will merely reinforce that, as Americans will focus spending on being well and safe.

What lessons are retailers learning now about building community with shoppers that might impact the way they operate after the pandemic has passed?

The biggest learning is the expectation from shoppers that retailers show they care for them and their communities. “Caring” is a value that will resonate very powerfully with shoppers as we move through this.

In 2018, we created a Caring Index to track how consumers rated retailers on “caring for my health and wellness.” This went way beyond the OTC aisle, the pharmacy or produce. We included attributes around caring for the community, taking stress out of the shopping experience, offering affordable solutions, etc. We tracked everyone from Aldi to Sephora to Walmart to Costco to CVS to Amazon, and more. What was interesting about the ratings was that the highest was only 54/100 — Aldi and Costco topped the list. Everyone else was under 50, which suggests lots of opportunity moving forward.

What shifts do you anticipate in the way retailers approach the wellness of their employees in coming months and years?

Pre-COVID-19, shoppers were developing a different set of values. This will only be heightened moving out of the crisis with other attributes being added. Those retailers who show in tangible ways they care for their shoppers, their employees, their communities, even their vendors, will be rewarded.

Article source here.

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