Consumers Are Ready to Return to Stores — But Many Still Fear Fitting Rooms

Consumers are showing signs they are ready to head back to stores to buy shirts, dresses and shoes. But they won’t be trying any of those items on.

A survey by First Insight found that while shoppers are most ready to hunt for new apparel and footwear, they are not comfortable with the traditional shopping experience.

When asked about common shopping activities, women consistently viewed them as more unsafe than men. The survey observed that 65% of women would not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, versus 54% of men; 78% would not want to test beauty products, versus 64% of men; and 66% would not feel safe working with a sales associate, versus 54% of men.

“While many shoppers seem ready to go back in stores, particularly to buy clothing, the experience is anything but business-as-usual,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “The coronavirus has moved the industry away from high-touch to low-touch.”

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Retailers looking to reopen may want to adjust their assortment to cater to the customers most likely to return to stores. The study found millennials to be consistently more comfortable with the shopping experience than other demographics; only 49% were uncomfortable with trying on clothes, compared to 71% of baby boomers.

Introducing new safety precautions to brick-and-mortar may help alleviate some of these concerns. When surveyed about potential measures, consumers said hand sanitizer and limiting the number of people in store (both at 80%) and requiring facemasks (79%) as the most popular precautions. Temperature checks and self-checkout were less popular but still supported by 69%.

“The ‘new normal’ for retailers will be to work with shoppers in a hands-free way to help them find what they need, while also giving them the space to feel comfortable — particularly with high-risk groups like baby boomers,” said Petro.

Petro also noted that many retailers may need to consider revising their returns policies if consumers decline to try on items in store. By adapting services to accommodate the new retail reality, retailers can help to make physical stores a more appealing option in the post-pandemic era.

This survey was the most recent study in First Insight’s ongoing consumer sentiment series. These reports have found a consistent decline in concern about the coronavirus; 76% of consumers described themselves as worried about it on April 30, versus 82% on April 20. The number of consumers cutting their spending has also decreased to 58%, from 62%, across the same time period.

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