H1N1 Fears Could Reduce Holiday Shopping Crowds

Publish Date: 
Oct 29, 2009

NEARLY ONE IN five consumers say their concern over the H1N1 flu will cause them to avoid shopping on traditionally busy retail days during the 2009 holiday season, according to a study conducted by Morpace Research and Consulting (www.morpace.com).

The concern stems from consumers’ fear of being exposed to the virus. Some survey respondents indicated they would go to extraordinary lengths to avoid large crowds; this is especially true for women (22 percent) compared to men (14 percent), said Morpace vice president of retail services Tom McGoldrick.

“We’ll see if that means consumers will spread out their shopping days over a longer period of time, or if they reduce the amount of shopping they do at traditional brick-and-mortar stores,” McGoldrick said.

One strategy retailers could apply to mitigate impact of H1N1 fears would be to promote online shopping deals and enhance their retail websites, noted Kirsten Denyes, vice president of retail services at the research firm. “Many of those consumers may still be willing to spend money if given the opportunity to shop from the comforts of their own homes.”

H1N1’s effect on shopping habits seems to vary by household income. Respondents in households with a total income of $100,000 or more were more likely to say that flu fears would not affect their holiday shopping plans, compared to respondents with household incomes of $50,000 or less. Researchers estimate that some reasons for this difference may stem from high-income shoppers having better healthcare coverage, and the fact that low-income consumers would be more financially vulnerable if forced to take sick days.

Posted by Mary Slepicka