Retail Study Finds Customers More Likely to Approach Formally Dressed Staff

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 3, 2021
By Ecureuil espagnol - Own work, CC BY 3.0

A study outlined in the Harvard Business Review found that retail customers prefer it when staff are more formally dressed, and they are more likely to approach such employees with questions, something which the authors says holds implications for social-distancing strategies. In the study, researchers compared shoppers' reactions to a hair salon employee in a white lab coat with their reactions to an employee in a white polo shirt, and found that, in general, they were almost twice as likely to interact with the former than the latter.

With this in mind, the researchers noted that shoppers who seek out assistance spend less time in the store touching things, which is better from a sanitation standpoint, and so they said that companies should have at least some staff somewhat dressed up for work. At the same time, this doesn't mean all staff; since those in less formal attire are less likely to be approached, the researchers said it might be a better choice for those who are not yet vaccinated, as they would likely be more at risk with close-up customer interactions. They also suggested assigning different colored clothing to their employees to signal different levels of preferred physical interaction.

The researchers also found that 83 percent of customers surveyed are more likely to approach a staff member in a mask than without one.

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