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Coronavirus and consumer trust

Key findings

  • Our latest data shows that consumer trust has risen during the coronavirus crisis for many sectors that provide essential services.
  • Trust in the food and groceries industry increased substantially by 19 points to +67 in May.
  • The travel industry has lost trust as consumers continue to wait for refunds on cancelled holidays. 

Trust in essential services

The food and groceries industry has always been one of the most trusted by UK consumers, but the coronavirus crisis, which has meant that retailers have had to cope with sudden and large changes to demand, has given the sector the opportunity to build trust further and it appears to have done so successfully.  The overwhelming majority (72%) of consumers said that they trust the sector, while just 5% said that they do not trust it.  This gave an overall trust measure of +67, which was 19 points higher than the previous measurement in February, before the crisis began.

Many other sectors have faced major challenges as a result of the coronavirus crisis, but have also seen an increase in consumer trust. Broadband providers have dealt with concerns over capacity and performance issues that might be caused by increased domestic demand during the lockdown, but trust in the broadband and home phone sectors increased by 9 points in May compared to February. 

Similarly, the banking sector has had to adapt to greater demand for customer services outside of branches and the need to provide greater support to consumers and businesses. We found that trust in the sector has increased by 9 points.

Our trust score for the gas and electricity sector has historically hovered around zero, with consumers split evenly between trusting and not trusting the industry, but in May it increased from +4 to +23, which is the highest level of trust in this sector ever recorded by our tracker. 

Airlines and holiday companies

Overall, it appears that most sectors have emerged from these challenges with an increased level of trust from consumers. However, one sector stands apart as an exception to this. 

The only sector which has seen a fall in trust is airlines and holiday operators, where trust has fallen from +9 points to -12. It seems that this has been affected by the inability of many consumers to get refunds for cancelled holidays. Just over a quarter (27%) of our sample had needed to cancel an already booked holiday due to the UK lockdown, and 58% of these are waiting for a refund. Trust was higher among those who had already received all refunds due to them, with a score of +4.

It seems clear that consumers have been mostly impressed with the way UK business in regulated industries have responded to the coronavirus crisis. It remains to be seen whether this will be a step change in how consumers feel towards businesses and increased levels of consumer trust can persist beyond the crisis.

Published on 28.05.20

Contact us

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please email us at consumerinsight@which.co.uk 

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