Australian Retailers Charging Shoppers to Try On Clothes

dressing room
Photo: Getty Images
Some Australian retailers are charging shoppers to try on clothing.

Your trip to the dressing room could wind up costing you.

Certain Australian boutiques have resorted to charging shoppers to try on clothes—refunded upon purchase—in order to discourage people who end up buying the clothes online for a lower price, the Sydney Morning-Herald reports.

Citing flagging sales in the midst of a recession and the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar boutiques are getting creative to lure shoppers away from the Web.

''I love having a store because I have an old-fashioned sensibility,'' says Sydney designer Clare Press, owner of the Mrs. Press vintage boutique. ''I love the traditional shopping experience, a delicious environment, boutique rather than mass, special treatment, and a sensory hit that you can't get online. But as a designer with one store, we have become a destination so you have to work hard as customers are no longer going to walk past and buy a dress on a whim.''

Ski stores, which pay for specialist boot-fitters, have begun selling $50 "boot-fitting vouchers" and charging non-customers $1 a minute to adjust ski books not purchased at the store.

"Their time is valuable," Snowsports Industry of Australia chief executive Eric Henry told the Australian. "People will wander into a shop and spend an hour or two with the boot fitter, then go out and buy them off the Internet. The owner of the store wants to ensure that if he doesn't get the sale, at least he pays for their time."

Besides the try-on fees—which critics claim punishes shoppers who can't find the right fit or don't love the way the garment looks on them—boutiques are also looking to in-store shopping parties, alteration services, and superior customer service to give them an edge over e-boutiques like Net-a-Porter.

In troubling U.S. retail news, mall vacancies are at an all-time high.