New research challenges the logic of clothing retailers hiring store clerks based on attractiveness — and not just because it's sketchy and possibly even illegal. Insecure customers are actually less likely to buy an item if they see a good-looking employee or fellow shopper wearing it.
A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that seeing someone else in an outfit has a strong influence over customers who have a negative body image. It's not enough to see a salesperson wearing an item or just pick it up off the rack; A shopper has to try on a piece of clothing to be affected by seeing it on someone else in the store. The authors explain:
"When a low body esteem consumer sees a dress on another consumer in the store but is not trying it on herself, she might think to herself, 'That dress is really cute and stylish!' Similarly, if a low body esteem consumer tries on a dress in a store but does not see any other consumers wearing the same dress, she might think to herself, 'This dress is really cute and stylish on me!' However, if she sees a dress on an attractive consumer in the store and is trying on the same dress herself, as she looks in the mirror she now thinks to herself, 'That dress is really cute and stylish on me, but compared to her, I look terrible!'"
So it seems that people have such negative views about their bodies that they'll give up on a look just because they could look more perfect. However, the authors don't focus on that terribly depressing point. Instead, they say the research shows that retailers should make changes to prevent consumers from seeing clothing on hotter people.
One way to accomplish this is to stop requiring salespeople to wear the brand's clothes to work. (Though, manning the J. Crew register in a t-shirt that reads "GAP" probably isn't advisable.) Another proposed solution is to prevent shoppers from seeing each other when trying on clothes. The researchers write:
"Specifically, stores would be advised to ensure that shoppers are not required to leave private dressing rooms to stand in front of a publicly shared mirror.
Well, that's just a good safety precaution. Apparently customers are so insecure that if they spot another shopper wearing the same dress, they'll fly into a jealous rage or stain the garment with their tears.
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