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Changing rooms: will government order their closure when stores reopen?

Published
May 26, 2020
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The UK government may have said that fashion shops can open from June 15, but there’s a huge question mark over how they’ll be able to operate following an interview with a senior minister on Tuesday morning.


Will changing rooms be off limits for UK shoppers when stores reopen?


Speaking to the BBC, Michael Gove seemed to suggest that shoppers shouldn't be allowed to try on clothing. He told BBC Breakfast: “When it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on – all of us [should] exercise restraint in not doing that and recognising that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal.”

Key reasons for shoppers going into physical fashion shops include being able to touch and feel the items before they buy them and also to try them on to ensure that they fit and suit them. If changing rooms are completely off limits, then many might question the reason for going into shops at all.

While many beauty retailers have moved forward in recent years with virtual testers that use augmented reality to show customers what a particular make-up colour will look like on them, similar technology doesn't exist for fashion stores.

This may mean that consumers are more likely to order online and try on products at their leisure at home.

All shops when they reopen will have to be "Covid secure", which will mean limited numbers of shoppers allowed inside, queueing systems, protective screens at cash desks, hand sanitiser, and even quarantining of products that have been handled. 

But while consumers have become used to adjustments in the way they shop at supermarkets in the past two months, they may need to adapt even more when it comes to shopping for fashion and beauty products. 

It also raises huge issues about stock availability if large numbers of products are ‘in quarantine’ having been touched by shoppers. Whether retailers embrace the idea of quarantining is open to question, especially as the UK has operated since March with supermarkets not having felt the need to quarantine any item that was touched.

But footwear chain Kurt Geiger has already said it will quarantine products as it reopens around 20 of its stores. Its store staff will also be wearing masks and gloves and it will only accept card payments. It estimates that the new measures could cost it around £5 million a year.

Michael Gove said on Tuesday that reopened shops will need to “have high quality hygiene” and to ensure the “highest level” of overnight cleaning”.

He added that reopening the shops is vital so that the economy can get back to some semblance of normality is and also said: “It’s particularly vital because some of those in our society who are poorer work in retail and we need to provide them with economic security.”

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