Female customers are less likely to buy an item from a shop if they feel the sales girls are more attractive than they are, according to a study.
The latest research from the University of South Australia (USA) says the power of "gorgeous girls" at the counter has some very clear limits.
Inspired by her own negative experiences in the retail environment in the US, doctoral researcher Bianca Price undertook the study, examining the purchase intentions of women aged 18 to 26 when confronted with an attractive or unattractive retail staff member.
"Women are biologically competitive - if they consider that a female is a direct social threat, it may affect their behaviour in that context," she said.
"When translated into the retail environment, avoidance means reduced purchases and ultimately, reduced profits," said Price.
She said that hiring only young, beautiful girls may limit your customer base and alienate your target audience, particularly when the majority of stores are targeted towards young women.
Regardless of whether or not the product was related to appearance (for example, a mobile phone compared to mascara) if the female customer perceived the staff member to be better looking than her, she was less likely to purchase the product.
She says upward social comparison, where individuals compare themselves with people who they believe are socially superior, can create anxiety, lower confidence and create feelings of inadequacy.
Price believes that the increased focus on appearance and body image in young women helps to explain the results. "Women, especially younger women, consider their appearance to be their CV," she said.
"Retailers need to understand that beauty can affect their bottom line. The solution lies in hiring women of all shapes and sizes, someone for each of your potential customers to relate to," she said.