Shoppers in England will be finally able to try on jeans, bras, suits and other items of clothing requiring the perfect fit from Monday when several high street chains reopen changing rooms for the first time in a year.
John Lewis, H&M and River Island will be reopening at least some of their fitting rooms when fashion stores open their doors next week as part of the next stage in the loosening of government coronavirus lockdown guidelines.
Next said it was undecided whether to reopen its fitting rooms while both Marks & Spencer and Primark have both said they will not do so next week. M&S, however, said that shoppers would be able to book appointments for “no contact” bra fitting in stores, where a member of staff will advise customers on how to measure themselves.
Some retailers baulk at the new requirements for reopening fitting rooms, which include regular cleaning, breaks between the use of cubicles, and ensuring doors and curtains are kept open when not in use.
Services such as fitting rooms are viewed as key for stores as they attempt to fight back against competition from online rivals.
Pippa Wicks, the boss of the John Lewis department stores, said it would also be restarting children’s shoe fitting, personal styling and home design appointments and collection of online orders from stores.
“We’re excited to be opening up much-needed services and helping customers choose those items that are harder to buy online – from the perfect mattress, to road testing the right pram or finding the right pair of jeans,” Wicks said.
Since March last year, stores have been told that fitting rooms should be closed “wherever possible” because of challenges in operating them safely.
The guidance said rooms should be cleaned between each use and suggested clothing that had been tried on should be steamed or put aside for several days to ensure germs were not passed on.
Only a few retailers, including department store Selfridges, operated their changing rooms last year, because of the guidance and high costs of quarantining or sanitising clothing and fitting rooms.
Guidance has now been changed so that retailers can operate fitting rooms if they minimise transmission of the virus. Rooms must still be cleaned frequently, but not necessarily between every use, and there must be some measures in place to manage clothing, including providing hand sanitiser for those trying items on and not passing items between customers and staff.
The government also stipulates that only one person at a time should be allowed in fitting rooms, with staff in place to manage social distancing and queues.
The guidance says a gap of several minutes should be allowed between one customer exiting and the next entering and that doors or curtains of vacant fitting rooms should be left open, where possible, to increase ventilation.