86% of shoppers surveyed described symptoms of ‘grief’ according to research conducted for virtual fitting room provider Fits.me and retail psychology expert, Phillip Adcock. By answering questions on their feelings, behaviour and actions followed the purchase of an item of clothing that doesn’t fit, consumers revealed a cycle of emotions comprising Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance – with risk of brand damage at each stage. As with mourning, some people will travel through all five stages, while others may experience just depression and acceptance for example.
57% of people feel Anger at themselves for buying an item of clothing without trying it on , while 21% felt Anger at the retailer for not meeting their expectations.
67% of women experienced Denial, compared to just 50% of men. Half of all women (49%) said that they would try it on more than once in an effort to make it fit, while 38% held on to the item while they were trying to lose weight. There are significant differences in the way different age groups manage grief too: 25% of 18-34 year olds would do everything possible to squeeze in to the garment, while only 9% of over 55s would do the same.
Retail psychology expert Phillip Adcock, managing director at Shopping Behaviour Xplained, describes the experience: “The first thing to note is that this study applies uniquely to clothes shopping. Unlike buying, say, an iPod, buying clothing is intensely subjective; people tend to buy something because they love it or feel it suits them. This is a very personal judgement, not the result of a particular technical specification.
“The study therefore applies to fit above all else. People accept, for example, that the colour may be different from what they saw on a screen, while it’s obvious that a shopper can’t handle the fabric itself when shopping online.
"But people definitely tend to blame themselves for clothes not fitting properly. Women, in particular, are affected by fit failures – as a result, they spend longer in Denial than men. They move on terribly slowly to Bargaining, such as seeking further opinions or trying various accessories to improve the look. Men are much more like to enter the Anger phase, expressing frustration with the retailer or the situation.”
“At each stage their feeling towards the brand is less than positive: think of phases like Denial, Bargaining and Anger and words like ‘disbelief’, ‘puzzlement’, ‘frustration’ or ‘anger’ make perfect sense.”
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