News this week revealed that a number of Hammerson-owned shopping centres, including Birmingham’s Bullring, have started covering changing room mirrors in their stores in a trial aiming to increase customer’s self-confidence when shopping.

Alison Rapsey, Course Director of BA (Hons) Fashion Business and Promotion at Birmingham City University, shares her views…

If you have ever worked in retail you know that the fitting room rail at the end of day, in women’s fashion, is always full and the men’s is practically empty. Women like to try stuff on – it’s part of the fun and part of the experience – we take our mates, get an opinion, but at the end of the day the mirror never lies and we know when something doesn’t look right.

One size doesn’t fit all and with a myriad of shapes and sizes for retailers to contend with – just removing the mirror is not going to boost self-confidence.

Paco Underhill of “Why We Buy” fame carried out retail shopping observations over a sustained period and noticed that if you place mirrors within the retail space on the shop floor, customers will use them. They hold up a garment against themselves to see if they like it and a sale can be made with confidence intact.

To step into a fitting room shows more of a commitment to buy, but that can then come with disappointment. However, consider that as no different to your bedroom – with more and more consumers shopping online and retailers struggling with the returns as a result, one could argue the mirror is the cause. We often try on alone, get a partners opinion which is never right, and the lighting always is wrong.

There is change a foot however,  as we have also seen a growth in new in-store technology and magic mirrors with brands like Harvey Nichols in Birmingham and Rebecca Minkoff in New York using these for a more personal experience. It works as a combination of holding up a virtual garment to a mirror image of yourself to see how it fits without the hassle of undressing – faster and stress free – and staff are always on hand to aid the process.

So should retailers be removing mirrors? NO. Use them to adopt the more personal connection, get staff back in these spaces to work with consumers and build confidence the old fashioned way – service.

Alison’s experience includes eight years in retail working across management roles in Arcadia and Emporio Armani. Alison has worked for Birmingham City University for 12 years and as Course Director she teaches over 340 students in modules including fashion buying, marketing, event management, trend forecasting and international retailing.

More about studying Fashion Business and Promotion at Birmingham City University.

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Alison Rapsey

Alison Rapsey

Course Director Fashion Retail Management