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New Survey Illustrates Salt Lake County Residents’ Top Concerns in Engaging with Businesses During COVID-19

Posted By Regional Development
June 02, 2020

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SALT LAKE COUNTY  ̶  As COVID-19 health restrictions for residents and employees have changed multiple times within the past month, significant effort has gone into informing businesses of the information they need to reopen, as a greater effort takes place to retain those local operations, and ultimately restart the economy.

However, it was not yet known if consumers were ready to join businesses that were choosing to reopen, and if not, which measures would provide residents a greater sense of safety?

In early May, Salt Lake County staff dedicated to evaluating COVID-19’s regional economic impact and enabling a successful recovery commissioned a Consumer Sentiment Survey, after seeing a gap in data available on the other half of the equation: consumer behavior and attitudes.

As organizations and governments are eager to help retain businesses, consumers must feel comfortable and confident enough to engage, and businesses need to know what ways will achieve that.

This new survey of residents’ behavior conducted from May 8-16 shows respondents’ successful embrace of public health orders to flatten the curve. And one of the residents’ greatest concerns is indicated by survey data that shows 70% of Salt Lake County respondents were worried the state government and Salt Lake County Health Department will lift restrictions too quickly, compared to not lifting restrictions quickly enough, 30%.

For many residents, that concern translates into limited participation in leisure activities and with non-essential business. More than two-thirds of respondents hadn’t dined in a restaurant, gone to a gym, or visited a salon in the last month – industries that were all directly impacted by the health orders but are slowly reopening.

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“This data is critical for businesses,” Dina Blaes, director of the Office of Regional Development, said. “It includes what they need to encourage consumers to engage with them. If, for example, requiring employees to wear a mask will be safer and allay customers’ concerns, look at the data. Perhaps the most striking information from the survey is consumers remain mindful of public health issues and are watching what measures businesses are taking to address the concerns.”

A high number of those surveyed -- 81% -- said they were more likely to visit a business if those businesses were following local health and safety guidelines. When asked what local businesses could do to increase shoppers’ safety, many were in favor of sanitization. Respondents emphatically said they would feel much more or somewhat more comfortable if businesses:

  • Sanitized high touch surfaces regularly
  • Provided sanitizer in prominent locations
  • Encouraged and maintained social distancing between customers
  • Provided minimal contact and pick-up options
  • Required daily symptom checks for all employee

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This new information is being used by Salt Lake County to further data-driven decision making for public health safety, as well as in economic recovery. The survey data provides actionable insight governments, business industries and other leaders can use related to safety measures to put in place to reduce consumers’ sense of concern.

“My goal for this survey was to bring the results to economic development directors, those on our economic impact working group, industry representatives, and chamber members so that we can make a concerted, collaborative effort to understand that however ready a business may be to get the economy rolling, the consumer ultimately has to feel comfortable engaging in the economy,” Blaes said.

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The Consumer Sentiment Survey is one part in a multi-pronged approach Salt Lake County is carrying out to further COVID-19 economic recovery. Federal aid, like grants and loans, serve the need of minimizing short-term damage from closures, while efforts to engage consumers are key to the strategy of business retention. Longer-term strategies to further the resilience of Salt Lake County’s economy include policy recommendations made by Salt Lake County Economic Development in the recent release of its Future of Jobs Reports on May 28. 

View the entire report of survey data here.