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Why Shoppers Balk at Hitting Your Fitting Room

Stores may be slowly reopening across the U.S., but consumers’ readiness to shop will vary depending on the product sold. Fifty-four percent say they are ready to buy apparel in store, far ahead of those looking to buy home improvement goods (36 percent) or footwear (32 percent), according to a survey from First Insight.

While a majority of shoppers are fine with purchasing new clothes at their favorite stores, the experience prior to buying might be fraught with anxiety. As many as 65 percent of women and 54 percent of men say they will not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms, while 66 percent of women and 54 of men would not feel safe working with a sales associate.

This new data comes two weeks after another First Insight survey indicated that only 33 percent of shoppers said they would feel safe shopping in malls, while 37 percent gave the thumbs up to shopping in a department store.

As many expect, the store experience is set to look quite different than it did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Shoppers felt that providing hand sanitizer and limiting the amount of people in-store (80 percent, respectively) and wearing a facemask (79 percent) would make them feel safest. Retailers including Gap and Kohl’s among others have already made these priorities as part of their reopening strategies, on top of installing protective barriers at all registers.

Additionally, a large portion of shoppers would feel safer in stores that included temperature checks (69 percent), self-checkout (69 percent) and farther distances between product racks or shelving (68 percent).

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Overall, worry about the coronavirus among shoppers is subsiding slightly, with 76 percent of respondents worried for the April 30 polling, versus 82 percent on April 20. The percent of consumers cutting back on spending due to the virus decreased over the same time, with 58 percent of respondents reporting cutbacks in outlay on April 30 compared to 62 percent on April 20.

“While many shoppers seem ready to go back in-store, 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. The ‘new normal’ for retailers will be to work with shoppers in a hands-free way to help them to find what they need while also giving them the space to feel comfortable, particularly with high-risk groups like baby boomers. Not feeling safe trying on clothing also begs many questions on how retailers and brands will need to adapt their return and exchange policy in the coming weeks.”

One company, My Size, Inc., is trying to alleviate shopper concerns over trying on apparel in stores. The smartphone measurement solutions creator developed a contactless shopping feature for its MySizeID app.

The MySizeID technology enables consumers to scan themselves using their smartphone to discover their body fit measurements, which can then be matched with a brand-specific apparel item in their size at the retailer of their choosing. By using the MySizeID app on their smartphone in-store, customers can find their right size in an article of clothing by scanning a QR code or a barcode. Customers can also make a purchase through the MySizeID app completely free of contact.

“We believe there will be a long-lasting shift in consumers’ shopping behavior once the quarantine restrictions are lifted and consumers are allowed to shop in stores again,” said Ronen Luzon, CEO of My Size. “One of those shopping behaviors will be contactless transactions, as consumers will try to restrict what they touch in stores. As more and more retailers open their stores back up, they will need new technology solutions in order to coax shoppers back to into their stores.”

The First Insight study found that millennials feel the safest returning to stores across all generations. Just 49 percent of millennials surveyed said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms compared to 71 percent of baby boomers. Similarly, 58 percent of these younger shoppers would not feel safe testing beauty products compared to 86 percent of baby boomers, and 48 percent of millennials would not feel safe working with a sales associate, versus 72 percent of baby boomers.