Attractive female staff could be bad for business

You might assume the more attractive your staff, the more the cash register will ring. But a researcher in Australia says it ain't necessarily so. Read on to learn the results of her study on women's spending habits when attractive female staff are involved.

The latest research from the University of South Australia finds female customers less likely to make a purchase if they perceive a female staff member to be more attractive than they are. The study examined the purchase intentions of women ages 16 to 26 when interacting with an attractive and less attractive staff member.

Bianca Price, the author of the study, says the results are reflective of what is known as social comparison theory, which suggests that people compare themselves to others to get feedback about their appearance. She says when people compare themselves with people they perceive as socially superior, it can create anxiety, lower confidence, feelings of inadequacy and result in avoidance behaviors, meaning reduced purchases.

Price believes the increased focus on appearance and body image in young women also helps explain the results. She says, “Women, especially younger women, consider their appearance to be their CV. It’s what can determine the number of friends they have, their luck in finding a relationship and their success in their career. Women are biologically competitive – if they consider that a female is a direct social threat, it may affect their behavior in that context.”

Price went on to say, “My research is showing quite clearly that for a strong section of the customer market – young women – beautiful is not always better and may not translate into higher sales – indeed quite the opposite may occur. She says the lesson is to diversify your staff as much as possible and consider the effect your staff’s appearance may have on your consumers.

Attractive young female staff might be appropriate for venues that target men, such as Hooter’s.  But for most other leisure, dining and retail venues, where women are making the vast majority of purchase decisions, attractive female staff may well hurt sales, if the latest research is borne out in future studies.