Retail guru Mary Portas explained ‘the loss of high street shops that men can get sent to while their partners try clothes on has led to them being forced to stand in the shop in the vicinity of the changing room. This in turn has led to a series of unfortunate incidents in several fashion retailers. Instead of heading off to watch the telly in Comet or idly look at the snooker cues in JJB, men have been accused of being Peeping Toms for looking towards the changing room curtains, while others are labelled as perverts for looking the other way, which always happens to be towards the lingerie department.’
Portas believes that he loss of HMV and Jessops is likely to exacerbate the situation, leading to fears of an influx of awkward, embarrassed men impatiently waiting for their partners when they could be looking at CDs or cameras that they won’t be allowed to buy instead.
Linked to this, there are real concerns that men will be asked to contribute to the choice of clothes, leading to an increase in the divorce rate. Questions such as ‘Do you think this makes me look fat?’ must be answered extremely tactfully, and there is no right answer to ‘Which one of these do you prefer?’ Husbands are bein advised to mumble something bland about them both being nice if they are to avoid the inevitable ‘So, what’s wrong with that one?’ or ‘Well that just shows how bad your taste is.’ Staff had to intervene in one case in Basingstoke recently when Mrs Ellie Winter, having tried on several dresses, announced which one she liked best, only to tell husband Peter, ‘I need to look in all the other shops in town, but I’ll bear it in mind.’
In view of these fears, one member of the Chamber of Commerce in Exeter has had an idea to keep men out of fashion stores during their partners’ shopping trips. Based loosely on the principle of a childrens’ creche, his establishment will look after his clients, entertain them and keep them fed and watered until they are collected. He’s calling his idea ‘a pub’.