March 24, 2021 from 10am-12pm (MST)


Consumers’ behavior as well as the retail environment have been fundamentally reshaped during the COVID-19 pandemic. While some retail formats, such as apparel, struggle due to decreased demand in the wake of economic downturn, decreased consumer spending, and a mandate or preference of consumers to stay at home, retailers of essential goods such as food, groceries, and healthcare had to cope with hyper demand and greatly fluctuating consumer purchase patterns, while facing challenges of inventory, supply chain management, delivery, and keeping their facility a safe environment. This seminar will focus on grocery stores which, in the public perception, have evolved from a place to complete “shopping chores” to the venue where households are sustained in times of extreme crisis. Consumer decision making is currently strongly impacted by self-interest and negative emotions, such as fear, anger, and anxiety, forcing grocery stores to take measures such as rationing and designating opening hours for essential workers and seniors, some of which may be regarded as unpopular and limiting individual customers’ “freedom of choice”. Consequently, physical stores have become sites of political and cultural contestation and conflict around public health practices such as mask wearing and social distancing, putting store employees at the “frontline” of ideological, if not physical, conflict. We will explore how these trends and experiences might inform consumer and retailer public health preparedness.



Working as a faculty member at the Norton School, Dr. Sabrina Helm is responsible for providing a first-class learning experience for her undergraduate as well as her graduate students. When she came to Arizona from her home country, Germany, in 2008, she encountered vast differences in the educational systems that translate into differing expectations, achievements and desires of students, faculty and society. Living and working here, as well as profiting from UA’s constructive environment, was a great learning experience for her. Her experiences provides her with an opportunity to reflect on, adapt to and shape the new environment she found herself in. This might also explain the characteristics she greatly values in her students: creativity, determination, a penchant for critical reflection and a positive attitude toward change.


Dr. Helm's research focus is in several main areas, but currently she is most interested in the role of marketers, consumers, and overconsumption in the context of climate change. Her academic background is traditional marketing, but she started working in the area of sustainbility and consumer behavior upon coming to Arizona, and this research interest is now the primary focus of herwork. She believes this a relevant and very worthwhile research endeavor because we live in a time and age where consumers and corporations need to take charge and cannot wait for government to change the way we live and consume. If we do not radically change our consumption patterns, life as we know it will likely cease to exist: what a drastic statement, and what a fantastic challenge for research!