How to Safely Buy Clothes as Stores Open


Jake Sanders works at the Tommy Bahamas store as the state of Florida enters phase one of the plan to reopen the state on May 4, 2020 in Stuart, Florida.

Joe Raedle | fake pictures

You may be thinking twice before venturing into the mall to try on clothes in a fitting room, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

You’re not alone.

Sixty-five percent of women said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to a survey by predictive analytics retail company First Insight. The firm received 1,066 responses from consumers on April 30. Meanwhile, 54% of men won’t feel safe wearing locker rooms, according to the survey. Sixty-six percent of women, and 54% of men, said they would not be comfortable working with sales associates at retail stores.

“Coronavirus has moved the industry from high contact to low contact,” said First Insight chief executive Greg Petro.

“The ‘new normal’ for retailers will be working hands-free with shoppers to help them find what they need while also giving them the space to feel comfortable, particularly with high-risk groups,” he said. “Not feeling safe trying on clothes also raises a lot of questions about how retailers and brands should adapt their return and exchange policy in the coming weeks.”

Retailers, especially those who sell clothing, are already struggling to figure this out.

Macy’s has said that by reopening the stores in phases, it will only leave a few testers open and will keep all merchandise tested or returned for 24 hours. Kohl’s closes all of its locker rooms until further notice and retains returned items for 48 hours. Gap is also closing its testers and withholding merchandise returned for one day.

“Our goal is to be the gold standard when it comes to secure retention,” Gap CEO Sonia Syngal said in an interview.

Still, analysts do not see these strategies as feasible in the long term.

More permanent options are being explored, such as a disinfection system created by Indiana-based Global Ozone Innovations that promises to clean clothes using ozone-based technology in one hour, with 99.95% certainty that all bacteria and viruses are removed. A university is currently testing the disinfection system against Covid-19 specifically, said Matt Kain, the company’s executive vice president.

Killing Covid-19 with ultraviolet light is another option retailers are considering, according to lighting company Healthe, which said it is in talks with several major retailers about rolling out its products in stores or back rooms. Fred Maxik, a former NASA scientist and founder and chief scientific officer of Healthe, has developed what he says is the first human-safe Far-UVC technology to fight the coronavirus.

“At the end of the day, in the new normal, we will have to consider human security,” Maxik said in an interview.

According to the First Insight survey, approximately 49% of millennials said they would not feel safe trying on clothes in locker rooms after the pandemic. But the percentage was much higher for baby boomers, at 71%.

Other smaller clothing retailers are getting creative on their own, hoping that customers will feel a little safer when they return to stores.

Men’s suit maker Suitsupply is installing foot partitions in its stores as they reopen, which it says allows “close and safe interaction” for people who still need their pants or jackets to fit. and adapt. It is also allowing customers to reserve assembly rooms, or private shopping suites, by appointment, which it says will be sterilized in advance.

Men’s clothing retailer Suitsupply is putting clear dividers in its tester areas to protect customers from staff.

Source: Suitsupply

Meanwhile, some employees at the men’s clothing store Bonobos are turning their social media accounts into online stores, displaying styles and various outfits online, and then directing people to buy them on the web.

“How do you bring the best of a real-world experience to a digital experience?” Bonobos chief executive Micky Onvural said in an interview. “Yes [consumers] They didn’t want to get up off the couch before, now they’re less likely to go into a store … if they can have the same kind of online service. ”

Literal “window shopping” for clothing could also be making a comeback, if consumers feel safer standing and browsing outside stores on the sidewalks of Manhattan, than if they venture inside.

“The storefront is becoming Facebook’s new ad,” said Jay Norris, chief executive of retail technology company Guesst. He is advising customers on how they should strategically store their post-Covid-19 storefronts. “That will become very relevant.”

Mixology, a boutique teen clothing store on New York’s Upper East Side, has been closed for weeks due to the pandemic. But the mannequins are fully dressed in new clothes, including punk-rock shirts, in the windows. And a sign above the door says, “Do you see something you like in the window? Feel free to text or call,” with the merchant phone numbers listed below.