Consumers Are Excited to Shop in Stores Again as Inflation Moderates

Cooling inflation bolsters consumer shopping, bringing the fun back to stores
Graphic conveying resale shopping in the retail and e-commerce industry
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Ashley Berry
June 24, 2024 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • After taking a dip due to the compounding effects of inflation, supply chain jams and labor challenges, store enjoyment is on the rise. In March, 59% of store shoppers said they enjoy the experience, up 10 percentage points from a series low in January 2023. 

  • Physical stores create an inherent sense of trust with consumers; They’re consistently rated as more trustworthy than brands that only sell online.

  • Gen Z does not trust e-commerce only brands, but that doesn’t stop them from shopping.

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For more exclusive data on inflation’s impact on consumer shopping attitudes and behaviors, download Morning Consult’s 2024 Consumer Shopping Trends Report.

A little over a year ago we published a memo discussing the decline of shopping enjoyment and consumer trust due to inflation. Well good news, inflation is moderating, and shopping enjoyment and trust are back…somewhat. Store enjoyment is trending upward particularly among high income households, given their relative insulation from the pain of paying inflated prices. Trust has rebounded for brands with brick-and-mortar stores, but e-commerce sites continue to struggle, particularly with Gen Z. 

In-store shopping enjoyment is on the rise, particularly for high income households

Shoppers’ enjoyment of stores is rebounding after taking a hit amid peak inflation. Those who prefer in-store shopping chiefly say that they enjoy the experience. Seeing enjoyment rise again is good news, but inflation is only part of the story. Many retailers are still struggling to deliver a great store experience due to inadequate staffing and inventory. If this persists long term, more shoppers will turn away from the stores that can’t deliver.

Store shopping enjoyment rebounds as inflation cools

Shares of respondents who said they prefer shopping in stores because they enjoy the experience
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Survey conducted monthly from October 2021 to March 2024 among a sample of at least 847 U.S. adults who prefer to shop in stores, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

In that context, it isn’t surprising that high- and middle-income shoppers’ enjoyment of stores is higher than that of low-income shoppers. They’re more insulated from the effects of inflation and are shopping at stores that put a greater emphasis on the store experience. The psychographic profile of middle-income shoppers looks more similar to that of high-income, but behaviorally they tend to be more similar to low-income consumers. 

Trust in stores has rebounded, but e-commerce continues to struggle with low trust

Trust in traditional retail is notably high and very stable over time, though it took a dip as retailers raised prices to account for inflated costs. E-commerce is a different story, and not without reason: Ever been burned by an online purchase or a less-than-generous return policy? E-commerce marketplaces are rife with low-quality products bolstered by fake reviews, and those bad actors drag down trust for the entire e-commerce ecosystem.

E-commerce trust lags trust in brick-and-mortar stores

Shares of respondents who said they find the following “very” or “somewhat’ trustworthy
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Survey conducted monthly from October 2022 to March 2024 among a representative sample of at least 2,201 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Still, online sales continue to grow at double digits, so the lack of trust isn’t necessarily a drag on growth. As more brands introduce return fees, however, it could push more risk-averse shoppers away to brands with more flexible policies. 

Gen Z’s demonstrates the lowest trust in online-only brands, but they shop anyway

Counterintuitively, Gen Zers trust online-only stores less than older generations do, despite growing up with the internet at their fingertips. This is likely because they’ve had more exposure to online shopping, not less, but they accept the increased risk that comes with not being able to see a product in person before adding it to an online cart.

Gen Zers notably have low trust in online-only brands

Shares of respondents who said they find the following “very” or “somewhat’ trustworthy
Morning Consult Logo
Survey conducted monthly from Mar 25-29, 2024 among a representative sample of 2,228 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Still, Gen Z overwhelmingly prefers to shop in stores, though teenagers are more channel agnostic than Gen Z adults. Millennials are the generation most inclined to online shopping options. They place an extremely high value on convenience, and they’re in a busy life stage, balancing parenthood, careers, and increasingly caring for aging relatives. 

Claire Tassin is a retail and e-commerce analyst. She conducts research on shifting consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as trends relevant to marketing leaders in the retail sector.
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