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Mannequins keep watch on shop customers

Friday 23 Nov 2012 5:26 p.m.

By Tony Field

Shop mannequins are supposed to be eye catching, but now some retailers in the US and Europe are using them to watch their customers.

It may sound strange, but Russell Sinclair of the New Zealand Retailers Association says he’s not surprised.

“It's a constant stage of evolution, technology and retailing, so I am not surprised to see a new initiative like this.”

The $6000 mannequins log details about the age, gender, race and behaviour of shoppers.

But will customers find the cameras intrusive? Retail consultant Sarah Webb doesn’t think so.

“There are security cameras everywhere now, in the streets, in the shops, and I honestly don't think that people notice anymore. I think they will just go about their business and assume that that happens."

Nobody is using the high-tech mannequins in New Zealand – at least not yet.

“This gives another opportunity to clearly analyse who your target market is and also observe their behaviour in-store when they are looking at merchandising features and their reactions and so on,” says Mr Sinclair.

Some local retailers are not convinced.

Farmers says it seems quite an expensive way to learn more about customer behaviour. Three times a year it conducts in-store surveys asking customers what they think, and it also gathers information from its loyalty card.

But the mannequins may even eventually be able eavesdrop on customers' conversations.

“They'll give retailers the chance to get data from their customers, which give us raw data, not necessarily what they think we want to hear, but what they are actually saying,” says Ms Webb.

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