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With pressure on High Street stores, Ellina Webb looks at how important comfortable changing rooms are to the retail experience.

I don’t know about you but I’ve gone through online buying for clothes and have now reverted back to physical shops because I got fed up of having to return things that didn’t fit.  

So as a regular shopper on the high street, I spend a lot of my free time browsing the retail floor of womenswear stores. In fact as an unofficial shopaholic, I – like many of my likeminded peers, spend a lot of time in changing rooms.

Changing rooms have had a bad reputation for a long time, mainly due to issues such as poor lighting, unflattering mirrors, messy floors and extremely long queues. In fact, most of the time the queue for the women’s changing rooms feels on par to the agony of waiting 2 hours for a ride at Disneyland.

The only difference is that you’re weighed down by the excessive amount of clothing and accessories draped over your arms and hooked between your fingers.

The temperature in changing rooms really is the straw that can break a shoppers back

Ellina Webb Ellina Webb Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric

Putting all those issues aside however, if you were to ask a group of consumers what they believed the biggest issues with changing rooms is, I’m pretty sure they would say temperature.

The temperature inside busy retail stores is a hugely important aspect to a comfortable shopping experience and for me the temperature in changing rooms is even more imperative; in fact sometimes it’s even a game changer.

Come summer, winter, rain or shine, a hot changing room can force many a savvy shopper to abandon their loot in a frazzled sweaty state of panic.

And often (for me at least) this situation starts in the queue, where excess heat from fellow shoppers builds up along with increased huffing about how slow the queue is moving.

In leading womenswear shops like Zara; one of the most well-loved high streets shops of today, you can often take in 10 items of clothing into a changing room, proving a duvet of extra heat over your arms – all you need now is for the shop to have inadequate cooling and you’ve officially reached meltdown.

The importance of temperature control in retail

If a shop is hot and stuffy, customers will not want to linger and browse.

Temperature in all buildings, from offices to hotels and shops, affects productivity so in a retail environment everyone is as risk.

A hot shop will be distracting and exhausting for staff and in turn this could affect customer service.

For customers, this potential slack in service and the uncomfortable shopping experience could damage both the turnover of the company and the reputation of the brand.

The importance of changing rooms

Changing rooms allow customers to make a final purchasing decision and in most cases, a decision made in the changing room will limit the number of returns. There’s nothing worse than getting home and finding out that the item you rushed to buy doesn’t fit because you didn’t try it on. Changing rooms are essential, so the state of these small spaces could have a huge impact on sales.

But of course that isn’t true for any old changing room.

A changing room is a sensorial experience for a customer, they want to feel their best and look their best – in fact in a survey from 2016 it was reported that 71% of women in the UK are put off buying clothes they have tried on in front of a changing room mirror.

Volume of music, poorly placed mirrors, bad lighting, nasty smells and heat (provided by poor shop design, poor HVAC systems and inefficient lighting) are all off putting and affect the quality of the environment that you are changing in.

As someone who would fall into that percentage the ideal changing room in my opinion is spacious, light, cool, airy, clean and quiet (and also has a decent door and mirror!).  

I don’t believe that banning the mirror (as some retail shops are doing) will solve anything. I believe an investment into retail space is the answer, and by the sounds of it, my fellow shoppers seem to agree (given all the changing room reviews I have come across – such as this one).

Cooling in changing rooms

As I’ve mentioned throughout this article, the temperature in changing rooms really is the straw that can break a shoppers back. Comfortable environments, no matter what the space or building type, are a hot topic in construction and for corporate end users. There are many solutions out there for the retail sector and as the world gets warmer, cooling systems are becoming more and more essential.

In large shops, department stores or shopping centres VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) or Chiller systems have the capabilities to produce the perfect indoor temperatures. Indoor unit innovations like sensors have the ability to automatically adjust temperatures based on occupants in the room. Other indoor air conditioning units allow for easy maintenance, with features like a drop down grille which can extend 4 meters down to be cleaned without a ladder or scaffolding.

In medium to small sized retail environments, split air conditioning systems or room air conditioning systems are ideal. Some indoor units like those that are wall mounted not only look good (like this style range) they also have sensors for customised comfort and double vanes for evenly distributed airflow; great to keep customers cool and avoid any unwelcome draughts.

Air curtains are also a great addition to retail temperature control as they can regulate the temperature right from the main door. They also repel smoke, dust, fumes and insects, making the indoor shopping environment even nicer.  

Another great way to monitor temperatures in changing rooms is to change lighting to energy efficient LEDS because the heat excess generated will be lower.

Final Thoughts

Online shopping is out performing the traditional high street, but i believe that things are changing and the future of womenswear shopping will revert back, as long as retail chains can make the required updates to the shopping experience they provide.

Shopping habits are changing, but spending habits are changing too and I find that I return more online purchases because I haven’t been able to try before I buy. Trying on in changing rooms allows me to choose what I really want, so giving up due to a hot and uncomfortable changing experience is extremely frustrating.

A cool, practical and aesthetically nice looking changing room can often be make or break, so I believe it’s time we start listening to the reviews and making changing rooms an important aspect of the shopping experience.

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric