UK fashion retailer Primark has introduced gender-neutral changing rooms in two stores, prompting both criticism and support from online observers.
The move comes a year after Topshop began integrating its changing rooms.
The response to Primark’s announcement has lit up social media in the UK, posing the question: Are shoppers ready for gender-neutral changing rooms?
Primark says its action follows a challenge from transgender shoppers who said they faced difficulties using gendered changing areas. The new arrangement allows all shoppers to change in the same area, albeit in private booths.
But critics online have suggested that more needs to be done to address privacy and safety concerns, in particular noting that doors would offer more protection than the current curtains.
One user noted on Twitter that the perceived threat from men changing in neighbouring cubicles was far greater than any concerns from transgender people.
“Women should not be made to feel unsafe when shopping,” tweeted another. “You don’t even have doors, so any man can walk in on us changing – so wrong will be boycotting!”
Another shopper had a positive response, highlighting an advantage of the policy: “I am really happy to hear that Primark [has] swapped to gender-neutral changing rooms – as a disabled couple we often need to help each other try clothes on & need to accompany each other into changing rooms,” she tweeted. “We can’t always do that in some stores. It depends on the staff.”
Primark responded to the mixed response calmly: “It has been our policy for some time that all customers are welcome to use the fitting rooms of their choice in our stores,” said a spokesperson.
“As part of our latest in-store design, non-gendered fitting rooms, which are commonplace in retail and other markets in which we operate, have been introduced in our new Bluewater and Hastings stores.”