Opinion
Ali Talks

No, Retailers: Communal Fitting Room Mirrors Are Not Fun

Engaging the customer is a fine goal, but know when to back off.

No, Retailers: Communal Fitting Room Mirrors Are Not Fun
Fitting room area at Aritzia at Mall of America

I shimmied into a denim dress at the new Aritzia store at Mall of America. A roadblock in the general vicinity of my hips told me, without looking down, that this was not the dress for me. Still, I wanted to see just how bad it looked, and whether, by any miracle, sizing up might help. But there was no mirror within the private confines of my fitting room. The Canadian retailer’s fitting rooms are strategically positioned around a dramatic center lounge, decked out with modern furnishings, leafy greens, and communal mirrors. 

I poked my head through the curtain of my mirror-less room. I could see the big mirror and the good lighting just a few steps away. There was no one around. But the dress was still stuck around my midsection and mostly unzipped. Not worth it, I thought. I took it off and got out of there. 

“How did it work out!” an eager sales associate gushed as I emerged.

“Not so well,” I told her. “And I really hate the communal mirrors.”

She seemed shocked. Perplexed. Sad, even. 

“But they make trying on clothes so fun!” 

Maybe if you’re 15 and have no cellulite. 

Am I too old for Aritzia? Too prudish? Because that’s what the communal mirrors tell me. Meanwhile the $225 blazers and $200 dresses sold at the store are clearly aimed at a fashion-conscious contemporary shopper who embraces design and can afford to step it up from Forever 21 or H&M.

I appreciate that retailers are trying to make their stores experiential, but when that experience starts to feel forced—like a cashier who wants to know if you have “any fun weekend plans?!!!”—it can backfire. 

I’m not calling for the abolition of the communal fitting room mirror; I’m just saying, offer options. Keep the pretty communal mirror area, which invites spontaneous fashion shows and selfies. But throw a mirror up on the wall of each (or at least some) individual stalls as well, for those of us who prefer to examine our angles in private. 

Store engagement works best when it feels authentic to the brand and not like a trap. For example, the meditation stations at lululemon’s Galleria store—silly, you might say, but very much on brand, and a sleek place to sit. Another good example is the “Cold Room” at Canada Goose, which opens Thursday at Mall of America—right across the hall from Aritzia. This fitting room sized ice box (with a mirrored wall and window for selfies) gets down to -13 Farenheit, with windchill simulators. It’s the perfect way to test drive a Canada Goose parka, which, at $1,500, is probably a good idea. The opportunity to step inside a freezer is a fun surprise, and it tells you that Canada Goose has the utmost confidence in the jackets it sells. 

Not every brand lends itself to such a specific interactive display. But the ones destinted to survive and thrive are figuring out ways to add memorable moments. Urban Outfitters and Kiehl's have photo booths. TOMS offers VR goggles that let shoppers travel to the far off places where its shoes are donated.

Getting it right requires creativity, and consideration. Make store experiences fun. And, particularly where getting undressed is concerned, make them optional. 

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