How to buy clothes safely when stores reopen

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Jake Sanders works at the Tommy Bahamas store as the state of Florida enters the first phase of the state reopening plan on May 04, 2020 in Stuart, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

You might think twice about going to the mall to try on clothes in a changing room, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

You’re not alone.

Sixty-five percent of women said they wouldn’t feel safe trying on clothes in the locker room due to the Covid-19 crisis, according to a survey by the retail predictive analytics company First Insight. The company responded to 1,066 consumer responses on April 30. Meanwhile, 54 percent of men will not feel safe in the locker room, the survey found. Sixty-six percent of women and 54% of men said that they did not feel comfortable working with salespeople in retail stores.

“The coronavirus has moved the industry from high-touch to low-touch,” said First Insight chief executive Greg Petro.

“The ‘new normal’ for retailers will be to work with buyers in a hands-free way to help them find what they need while giving them the space to feel comfortable, especially with groups at high risk, “he said. “Not feeling safe trying on clothes also raises many questions about how retailers and brands will need to adjust their return and exchange policies in the coming weeks. “

Retailers, especially those selling clothing, are already struggling to understand this.

Macy’s said that by reopening the stores in stages, she would only leave a few fitting rooms open and keep all goods tried or returned for 24 hours. Kohl’s closes all locker rooms until further notice and keeps returned items for 48 hours. Gap is also closing its fitting rooms and retaining returned goods for one day.

“Our goal is to become the benchmark for safe storage,” said Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap in an interview.

However, analysts do not consider these strategies to be feasible in the longer term.

More permanent options are being explored, such as a disinfection system manufactured by Indiana-based Global Ozone Innovations, which promises to clean clothes using ozone technology in one hour, with a certainty of 99, 95% that all bacteria and viruses are killed. A university is currently testing the sanitation system against Covid-19 in particular, said Matt Kain, the company’s executive vice president.

Killing Covid-19 with ultraviolet light is another option that retailers are considering, according to lighting company Healthe, which said it was in talks with a number of large retailers about rolling out its products in stores or behind the scenes. Fred Maxik, former NASA scientist and founder and scientific director of Healthe, developed what he claims to be the very first human-friendly far UVC technology to fight coronaviruses.

“At the end of the day, in the new standard, we will have to take human security into account,” said Maxik in an interview.

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

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

Men’s costume maker Suitsupply installs standing partitions in their stores when they reopen, which he says allows “close secure interaction” for people who still need their pants or jackets to be adjusted and fit. It also allows customers to book dressing rooms or private commercial suites by appointment, which he says will be sterilized in advance.

Men’s clothing retailer Suitsupply installs clear dividers in the changing rooms to protect staff customers.

Source: Suitsupply

Meanwhile, some store employees at men’s clothing brand Bonobos turn their social media accounts into virtual stores, outfitting styles and outfits online, and then enticing people to buy them on the web.

“How do you bring the best of a real world experience into a digital experience? Bonobos CEO Micky Onvural said in an interview. ” Yes [consumers] I didn’t want to leave the couch before, now they’re even less likely to enter a store … if they can have that same type of service online. “

The literal “window shopping” for clothing could also make a comeback – if consumers feel safer standing and browsing outside of stores, on Manhattan sidewalks, than they do inside .

“Window shopping is becoming the new Facebook ad,” said Jay Norris, managing director of retail technology company Guesst. He advises clients on how to strategically store their windows after Covid-19. “It will become very relevant. “

Mixology, a teenage clothing store on New York’s Upper East Side, has been closed for weeks due to the pandemic. But the models are fully dressed in new clothes, including punk rock t-shirts, at 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.

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