Unhygienic washrooms reduces shopper foot traffic in malls

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An Australian study has discovered that bad washroom experiences are keeping shoppers away from malls: one in five are uncomfortable using a shopping centre bathroom and 13 percent say they would consider not returning to a shopping centre if they felt the bathrooms were unhygienic.

We often scoff at those who regularly whip out the hand sanitiser in public places, but The Initial Hygiene Great Australian Washroom Study shows that almost half (42 percent) of Australia’s shoppers consider themselves ‘hygiene worriers’.

These sanitiser-carrying people are the most concerned about hygiene. They worry more about how much control they have over the hygiene of their environment and they spend a lot more time developing strategies to help deal with their lack of control.

At the other end of the scale are the ‘easy-going’ shoppers (30 percent) who still care about hygiene, but are more laid back about eliminating the risks and the amount of control they have over hygiene levels.

Overall, regardless of whether they’re a worrier or are more easy-going about hygiene, unhygienic shopping centre bathrooms can have an effect on a shoppers’ experience. Both groups agreed that “using public toilets makes [them] feel uneasy” and that “it is not the visible dirt that worries [them], it’s the invisible germs”.

“Unhygienic shopping centre bathrooms are not enticing shoppers to stick around and spend, which is concerning for retailers particularly in the face of online competition,” says Natalie Howard, marketing manager, Initial Hygiene.

“With the possibility of shoppers being concerned about unhygienic bathrooms rather than on spending, retailers and their facilities managers need to examine the whole shopping centre experience.

“We have found a direct connection between the level of hygiene in the shopping centre bathrooms and the amount of time a person spends in a shopping centre,” adds Howard.

What are the elements that will turn shoppers off using a washroom? It was found there are a number of factors shoppers use to assess a bathroom’s level of hygiene that ultimately help inform their experience in a shopping centre.

On the top of the list were a lack of toilet paper, dirty feminine hygiene units, a lack of soap and unpleasant smells and odours.

“Keeping basic washroom supplies stocked is the strongest indicator of a hygienic space, but sensory elements such as appearance and smell are also strong indicators of hygiene, especially in a shopping centre bathroom,” Howard says.

The study has shown that all shoppers want the basics, but giving them control of their own hygiene security in the shopping centre environment is better.

“Our study has shown that as we move further away from home we have a diminishing sense of control over our hygiene security,” says Howard.

“People’s concerns around hygiene escalate as the environment they find themselves in becomes less controlled, and shopping centres are one such area where they feel uneasy.

“Facilities managers and retailers can put hygiene security back in the hands of shoppers by providing them with tools like toilet seat spray and hand sanitiser.”

So what does the ideal shopping centre bathroom look like? According to shoppers, the top bathroom must-haves include soap and paper towel dispensers, feminine hygiene units, hand dryers, and toilet and air sanitisers.


1. ‘The Great Australian Washroom Study’ conducted by Added Value on behalf of Initial Hygiene. The study was conducted in May 2013 with a sample size of 423.


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