Dressing Room Trade-Offs

Trying on clothes shouldn't take an hour!


At least it doesn't take that long to try on shoes.

Skirt: JC Penney

Tank and Cardigan: Target

Shoes: Old Navy

Necklace and Earrings: NY & Co.

Like the outfit? See more details here!


I’m going to look at a marketing and operations conundrum in today’s post, inspired by several experiences at retailer H&M. I received a gift card to the store for Christmas, but I’ve yet to make a purchase. Every time I go in there, the line for the dressing room is ridiculous! We have two locations in the Dallas area, and both of them have terrible issues with the dressing room situation. My sister dropped by an H&M recently, and she also mentioned that she had to wait in line forever to try something on. You might be thinking that this means that H&M is popular and thriving, but in reality, it’s hurting their business.

First, the obvious issue: long lines are making people completely abandon their purchase. I’ve seen women trudging toward the line carrying an armload of clothes, only to look up and down the line in dismay, and dump that armload of clothes onto a nearby table and walk out of the store! Again, some might think it’s ok, because you’ve got all these people willing to wait in line, so they’ll make up for the abandoned purchase. Except, the reason the dressing room line is so long stems from another issue that also affects purchasing.

H&M fit and quality are hit or miss at best, meaning that you have to grab 3 of every item if you want to have any shot at finding something that fits. Sure, in theory, people are carrying in loads of stuff that they’d like to purchase. The problem is that they have no intention of purchasing every item, because at least 2 of the 3 sizes they’ve brought in won’t actually fit! Now you’ve made the lines ridiculously long with no greater shot at increasing the average purchase, and you’ve made other potential buyers abandon their purchase altogether! On top of all that, they’re forced to hire extra floor personnel to handle all the re-stocking because customers are grabbing more items than they normally would if the fit were somewhat consistent.

So if trying on the outfits is such a pain due to the long line and unreliable fit, why don’t customers just buy all the items they like in several sizes, try them on in the comfort of their own home, and return the unwanted items? Because the buy/return lines are ALSO ridiculously long! Maybe people are starting to try that, but instead of reducing the time spent waiting to try on items, they’ve actually just doubled the waiting time in both places. I’ve found one or two items that fit, but I wasn’t willing to wait AGAIN to actually make the purchase, and I’m definitely not willing to make a purchase first, hope it fits, and then have to come back to wait in line.

H&M isn’t trying to sell an amazing shopping experience or the highest quality clothing, but their unreliable fit is leading to long lines in the dressing room and check-out counter, which is causing a high rate of purchase abandonment. There’s a few ways to fix this: make the fit more reliable, build more dressing rooms, or hire more employees to deal with the chaos that their operational problems have caused. This is a pretty classic case study with obvious flaws in operational and marketing execution, and I’m hoping the drop in sales will make them change their strategy in the near future… I want to spend my giftcard, after all! Like the outfit? See more details here!

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