CHANGING ROOMS – THE GOOD AND THE BAD

Changing rooms are one of the things that annoy me the most when I go shopping for clothes.  There are not many occasions when I come across the perfect changing room.  To me it is part of my shopping experience.  After all we can all shop online in the comfort of our own home so why go to the extra effort of going to a shop?

I recently visited lots of changing rooms in one day to discover the good and the bad.  First, though,  I want to explore the reasons as to why bother trying anything on in the first place

REASONS TO USE CHANGING ROOMS

  • You can try before you buy.  Saves having to go back to the shop to return anything.
  • You can try for choice and size – Okay so you might order more than one item online but it is unlikely you take home more than one item without trying on first.
  • You can view everything in one go – You can take a collection of garments into the changing room.
  • Limited viewing online – Websites are great, but unless you spend hours trawling through the pages you will not be able to see everything in the shop.Changing Rooms

ABOUT THE DAY

I wanted the reviews to be as fair as possible and visited Oxford Street in London.  This is where a lot of the high street shops have their flagship stores.  I visited as many clothes shops as possible and in each shop I tried on a garment.  This actually proved to be a costly day for me as some of the clothes I tried on I ended up buying – oh well what we have to do for research!  You see I didn’t just want to try any piece of clothing or even just take a piece of clothing into the changing room without trying it on.  I wanted to experience as much as possible the whole saga from finding the changing rooms to actually leaving the shop a satisfied customer.

Before going to do my research I thought about what had annoyed me about changing rooms in the past.  I had a list of problems and I assessed the changing rooms in each shop on each problem.  Taking all the possible problems into consideration I came up with a mark out of 10.  I am not going to give you the individual marks as the shops may have been more/less busy at different times of day.  What I am going to do below is list the problems and tell which shops came out best for each problem.  I will  tell you who in my opinion which shop offered the best experience at the end of this post  – you might just be surprised, I was!

CLEANLINESS

I don’t think anyone wants to get changed in a dirty or messy changing room.  I am pleased to report that, overall all the changing rooms were clean.  In John Lewis the assistant checked the changing room before allow the next person in, this was good to see.  I found the changing room in Zara to be scruffy.  This was not helped by a wooden bench with poor paintwork.

NUMBER OF CHANGING ROOMS AND WAITING TIME

A long queue is off-putting when you want to try on clothes.  Although Oxford Street is always busy, Saturdays are by far the busiest day.  I therefore knew this would really put the shops to the test and see which ones could cope.  Most shops had ample changing rooms.  However I did have difficulty finding the changing rooms in House of Frazer.  There were no signs and when I did find them there were only four.  I am guessing that there were probably more changing rooms on the same floor.  Unfortunately there was no one to ask.

SIZE AND CONTENTS OF CHANGING ROOM

This is not normally a big issue but I thought it was worth looking at.  I did not find any changing rooms on the exceptionally small size.  All had mirrors and a lot had two mirrors and one (House of Frazer) had three.  A lot of the changing rooms had seats/stools which I always find useful.  Next had an assistant bell which is useful if you are shopping on your own.  All had hooks, I like the ones in New Look which read Definitely, Maybe, My Stuff.

NUMBER OF GARMENTS ALLOWED TO TRY ON AT ONCE

In House of Frazer the maximum number of garments at any one time was 4.  Most of the other shops was between 6 and 8 which I think is reasonable.  Zara, however, allowed up to 10 items and most people in the queue had 10 items.  This is probably one of the reasons why the queue was so big in Zara.  Together with not having enough changing rooms.  Anyone taking 10 items in a changing room could be occupying that changing room for at least half an hour possibly longer.

AREA FOR PLUS ONES

This is one of the reasons why I wanted to write this post.  More often than not I will go shopping with my husband.  When trying on clothes I like to get my husbands opinion especially if it is for a special occasion.  However, there is not always space outside the changing room for him to stand or sit.  He often gets in the way of people coming in and out of the changing room.  Then when I come out to show him what I have tried on I have to step outside of the changing rooms.

Some shops had no area at all, in fact in Zara and Wallis my husband was in the way of other shoppers.  There were a couple of chairs outside other shops.   Gap had unisex changing rooms (such a good idea) and they had a bench plus ones could sit on. The best shop by far was New Look.  The two assistants directed my husband to a sofa which was in the middle of the changing room area.  This was perfect, he was happy which meant I could take my time trying clothes on.

DOOR OR CURTAIN

I hate ill-fitting curtains or ones which are difficult to pull along.  Also a curtain can sometimes be half-open and you are never sure if anyone is in there.  It was pleasing to see that most shops had doors and those that had curtains fitted properly.  The curtain which did not fit was in Zara.  This was even more concerning as there was a male shop assistant working in the changing rooms.  The other shop which had ill-fitting curtains was Wallis.

OTHER COMMENTS

I visited both the Marble Arch store and Oxford Circus stores of Marks and Spencer and surprisingly they were not the same.  I found the Oxford Circus store to be a lot more plush and comfortable.

Most of the assistants in the changing rooms were friendly and helpful especially in New Look.  I had left my husband outside the changing room and the assistants allowed him to sit on a sofa outside my changing room.  I found the assistant in Wallis to be very bossy and it was as if I was putting her out by trying clothes on.  In John Lewis they had assistants on both the entry and exit and this worked very well.  There were two assistants in the changing rooms in House of Frazer.  However,  they were more interested in discussing their night out (which could be heard in the changing room) instead of helping.

MY VERDICT

Although I found most changing rooms to be ok, there are improvements that could be made to enhance the shopper’s experience.   There were a couple of shops which were poor in all the areas I looked at.  This would most definitely put me off from visiting that particular branch of the store again.

At the beginning of this post I said I would let you know which shop gave me the best changing room experience.  You may be surprised to learn it was New Look – Marble Arch with an overall score of 9/10.  My only negative comments were that the changing room was smaller than others I had been in.  However there was still enough room to take clothes off and on.  I also found their assistants to be very amicable.  There were a mirror and the three hooks which said Definitely, Maybe, My Stuff (such a good idea).  Most importantly my husband could sit down and I could therefore take as long as I wanted.

Have you had any good or bad changing room experiences? I would love to hear what they were

 

 

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