Restroom interiors are typically an after-thought when investing in a new restroom.  Maybe you see restrooms only for utility purposes, and find interior decorations to be non-essential.  But many people, particularly women, see restrooms as much more than just a place to relieve oneself.   Quality restroom interiors can create a positive impression with a substantial chunk of your clientele.  And as will be discussed later, several major businesses are already aware of this fact and are using it to gain a competitive advantage.

While this article is written based on evidence and examples from the world of retail, the concepts are universal and still apply to parks and other recreation areas.  Some people enjoy roughing it, but many more consider luxury to be indispensable.  When people encounter luxury in a place they do not expect, it will have an even greater impact on their perception.  Exceeding their expectations will help get them to come back, or contribute to the kind of positive experience that sparks word of mouth.

For some, a restroom is a restroom, but for many women, the quality of a restroom impacts them in a profound way.  Women have more reasons to visit a restroom than men do, they spend more time in the restroom, and they often find a restroom can be an important social tool.  Restroom quality matters a great deal to women and therefore their customer satisfaction.

Why is that important?  It’s because women make or influence 80% of all sales.  Not only do women shop more, but men often leave the finances to their wives.  Women are often the ones to plan family vacations as well.  So even if you aren’t concerned about getting more women to your recreation area, it can still pay dividends to make women feel extra welcome since many of them are them will be the key influencer in travel and lifestyle decisions.  And since most outdoor recreation areas are not known for having luxurious restrooms, having a cozy restroom for your visitors can help give you a competitive advantage over other outdoor destinations in your area.

In her book, Skip to the Loo!, author Linda Wright reports that many women plan their shopping around places with quality restrooms.  Many women, especially mothers, will often scout for restrooms at businesses before shopping there.

Here are some examples:

 

nordstroms

 

Major retailers realized that gaining a restroom advantage gives them a significant edge over their competitors.  They didn’t do it to be nice, they did it to help their bottom line.  As Wright explains, it’s just good business sense.

When Nordstroms opened the first high end mother’s room in 1990, it wasn’t long before many other retailers played copycat, realizing what was at stake if a competitor’s restrooms outclassed their own.  Retailers know exactly how big of a deal a restroom can be for women.

It’s not just about women’s needs, but about their children too.  When a young child has to go, the mother will often go with them.  Parents will often be over-protective of young children and will feel more at ease in a restroom that feels like home away from home- hence the outrageous degree to which stores like Nordstroms go to when attempting to make their Mother’s rooms feel hospitable.  If families make up a good portion of your visitation, you can expect a restroom remodel to have an impact.

While restroom appearance does matter more to women than to men, the male side of the equation should not be brushed over.  Many men are also bothered by a bad restroom experience, and pleased by a good one.  They may be less likely to speak up about it, but it will still create an impression on them and affect their perception of your park.

The beauty of having a better restroom is that in many cases, sprucing up a restroom to take it from good to great does not require as much expense as you may expect.  A wicker basket for paper towels costs $20, a floor graphic or a nice looking rug might cost you $150, a lamp might cost $100 and so on.   Making your interiors look incredible doesn’t have to be a $10,000 effort, all it takes is a little bit of investment in the right areas to make your restroom feel cozy.  An upcoming article on this blog will discuss interior improvement suggestions in greater detail.

Whether you are a department store, a restaurant, or a campground by a lake, one thing always holds true – repeat business is crucial to your bottom line.  The key to doing so is to create a positive impression on your patrons, by exceeding their expectations, particularly in cases where you have an opportunity to create a pleasant surprise.  Normally people wouldn’t expect a suave, genteel restroom experience so far away from home.  And it’s often the pleasant surprise that makes the most powerful impact on our perceptions.