Confessions of a shop changing room


For a while now I’ve had an inkling that the humble shop changing room is not used by the general public just for trying on clothes. So, using my own personal social networks as well as contacting some people from our very own Sense Network I decided to ask the question:

‘Apart from trying on clothes, what’s other things have you done in a shop changing room?’ 

The responses I got were surprising, fascinating and at times humourous. From “I cried in a changing room once” to “I used one to hide from someone I didn’t want to see” the responses about both personal and practical activities came bounding in:

“I breastfeed in changing rooms-it was easier than trying to find somewhere to sit in public and feed, and I didn’t have to worry about the furtive glances”

“I use them to squeeze my blackheads and touch-up my make-up – the light is really good for that”. 

One person even admitted:

“When I worked in a shop I slept in a changing room one time…on my lunch hour, of course”. 

What I quickly realised was that these small private spaces dotted throughout every city in the world are used by people in many different ways. Hidden from the prying eye of the CCTV camera and ‘protected’ by busy retail staff who will not interrupt your ‘stay’, people often take the opportunity to use changing rooms for activities which I suspect most retailers aren’t aware of.

Although the responses above might seem extreme and probably aren’t true of most people’s experience, this highly unscientific poll shows that people are using these private spaces for other activities over and above trying on clothes.

Now, obviously retailers don’t want staff sleeping on the job or customers spending hours in them, but based on the responses above I can’t help but wonder if there is an opportunity for a retailer to design and deliver a differentiated in-store changing room experience. By re-framing and re-designing the space from a ‘changing room’ to an interactive ‘comfort room’ the space could be transformed into something which slots into and improves the entire in-store shopping experience.

This private space could provide people with a space where customers they can bring their friends, partner, or simply go to by themselves to try on clothes, have a drink, feel comfortable and relaxed and make informed purchase decisions. A space which is designed properly for the needs of different customers, where mums of young children have a space to sit and breastfeed or rest their baby, or which is cleverly designed so partners can join in the experience too.

Clearly, there is a balance for retailers – every square foot of space is a cost to the business and people spending too long in the changing room area could increase the length of queues, potentially deterring customers before they reach the decision-point.

However, as Marks and Spencers used to be known for it’s quality toilets (bringing all types of people into their shops who would probably buy something along the way) perhaps there this is an opportunity for a Department Store (or any store in-fact!) to develop an exceptional changing room/comfort room experience which helps people make informed purchase decisions and leave with something that will make them feel great about themselves.

Although changing rooms are improving slowly over time, there is still a lot of work to be done.

I hope that they continue to change with the times.

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