When a retail shopper enters a store and sees sticky floors, dirty surfaces, and dusty corners, it makes them want to turn around and run for the parking lot. Nothing quite turns off customers as much as filth, according to a new study by Consumer Reports.

Cleanliness is the common factor among all top-rated U.S. grocery stores, supermarkets, and warehouse clubs. Consumer Reports found that the top 6 overall preferred stores – Central Market, Wegman’s, Heinen’s, Gelson’s Markets, Market Baskets, and Trader Joe’s – were also rated among the cleanest grocery stores in America.

Retail Store Cleanliness: More Than the Illusion of Clean

When a store can convince its customers that it’s genuinely clean, that’s a real victory. Many customers feel skeptical about store cleanliness, especially behind the scenes where customers aren’t allowed. They’ve seen hidden-camera TV shows that reveal the dirty secrets of restaurants, retail stores, and supermarkets across the U.S.

However, certain qualities convince a customer that a store is truly clean. Dennis O’Brien, president of CSG, told Consumer Reports about the biggest indicators of cleanliness from a consumer’s point of view.

Qualities that mean a store is clean:

  • Neat and clean sidewalks. Before they even enter a store, customers want to see clean sidewalks and steps. This is why so many grocery store cleaning companies frequently power wash sidewalk zones.
  • A pristine entryway. The entrance should be squeaky clean, from the floor mats to the windows. Consumers are particularly irked by debris like cigarette butts, gum, and mysterious stains, which can indicate a lack of frequent cleaning.
  • Sanitizer and trash cans. Consumers want to see clear indications that the company cares about cleanliness, like trash cans, recycling, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes. This is particularly true of stores that offer shopping carts and baskets, which hold germs.
  • Sparkling floors. When a floor is freshly polished and gleaming, the customer is given the immediate impression of a clean environment. In the same way, a scuffed and dirty floor makes them wonder what else is grimy throughout the store.
  • Hygienic restrooms. The restrooms must be bright, fresh-smelling, and fully stocked with toilet paper and paper towels. One study found that 86% of restaurant customers equate a dirty restroom with a dirty kitchen, and 75% would never return to a place with a bathroom that isn’t clean.
  • No spills. Customers judge a company harshly if they fail to address spills quickly – ideally, within minutes. For this reason, stores should have their staff members or an outside cleaning company constantly monitor their entire retail floor for spills and stains. 

Retail Store Cleanliness and Liability Laws

Cleanliness isn’t just about keeping consumers happy. It’s also about keeping them safe. If a customer is injured in a store and they can prove the owner was negligent in maintaining a safe environment, they could win a costly judgment against the store.

All business owners are required to keep their property free of hazards that could pose a risk to public health and safety. Slip-and-fall accidents are the #1 cause of emergency room visits and a leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in the U.S.

The primary contributor to retail store slip-and-fall injuries is dirty, loose, and worn flooring. This includes tattered carpeting, broken vinyl and laminate materials, uneven wood planks, cracked concrete, and all types of flooring with rough patches and loose debris. 

Liquid spills, litter, and stacks of unsorted merchandise also contribute to many retail store injuries. One of the best things a store owner can do to protect its customers is to keep walkways free of clutter and invest in cleaning services that keep everything safe, neat and clean.

Keeping a Squeaky Clean Reputation

A dirty store can quickly become a PR nightmare. Almost everyone has a cell phone in their hand at all times, so they can quickly snap a photo of a filthy floor or restroom and share it with thousands of people on Instagram, Yelp, Google Reviews, and more.

One study found that the top 5 cleanliness factors that cause people to stop going to a store forever are:

  • General bad odor – 78%
  • Dirty restrooms – 66%
  • Dirty and dusty surfaces – 65%
  • Poor entryway cleanliness – 60%
  • Broken and dirty dressing rooms – 56%

To keep any retail environment tidy enough to impress customers, avoid bad PR, and ward off potential lawsuits, store owners can take some preventive steps. Below is a helpful checklist. Some of these tasks must be done daily – or even hourly – and others involve a deeper and more thorough cleaning on a regular basis.

importance of cleanliness in retail

A Checklist of Cleaning Tasks for Retailers

  • Create routine cleaning schedules. Weekly cleaning simply isn’t enough. Employees should check entryways, walkways, and restrooms hourly. Store cleaning should take place daily.
  • Schedule deep cleaning. In addition to regular daily maintenance, the entire store should be deep-cleaned on a consistent basis. This includes high ceiling areas, floors and carpets, windows, displays, and everything else in both public and employee-only spaces.
  • Check air and surface quality. Perform mold tests. Have the ductwork and HVAC system cleaned. Ensure that the surfaces customers touch are not just clean, but hygienic – meaning they are being cleaned thoroughly enough to eliminate infectious bacteria and viruses.
  • Arrange power washing. Certain areas need to be power washed regularly to keep them clean: parking lots, sidewalks, entryways, building exterior siding, railings. Make arrangements for a cleaning company to frequently power wash these areas.
  • Deep clean the parking lot. At least once a year, schedule a thorough parking lot cleaning to remove embedded debris, oil stains, tire marks, and all the other grime that builds up around your customers’ cars.
  • Remove graffiti promptly. Retail customers dislike seeing graffiti, so have a cleaner on call who can tackle graffiti as soon as it happens.

Contact the CSG team today to get a free quote on general cleaning services, janitorial services, carpet cleaning services, and much more for any commercial building or retail store.


What people say about us

View All

Affiliations and Industry memberships