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High Street holds the answer to the crisis in womens sport

- 28th of February 2009

Four out of five women would play more sport if it were more like shopping at Marks and Spencer and Primark.

Research announced today by the Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation (WSFF), shows that 78% of women and girls would play more sport if it better reflected the customer-friendly experience of shopping. Currently, eight out of ten women do too little physical activity to benefit their health and just three per cent play organised team sports*.

The findings are part of the first national strategy to increase the critically low number of active women, launched today at WSFF's annual conference, with Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell and Paralympic Gold Medalist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE.

More than half of all women (55%)* would exercise more if facilities were of a better quality, and the trusted British retail brands, known for their high levels of customer service, are the models sport should follow. When asked which high street retailer would design the most female-friendly sports facility, nearly one fifth (18%) of women and girls chose Marks and Spencer followed by John Lewis and Boots, while 10-15 year olds preferred Primark (32%).

Among the things sport can learn from retailers are the importance of clean changing rooms (top of the list for 52% of women and girls); discounts for repeat visits/loyalty cards (47%); and the ability to try before you buy (45%). 42% said having a wide range of things to do in one place would encourage them to do more sport and just under a third (32%) said providing areas to socialise would be a real incentive.

In the changing room, a whopping eight out of ten (83%) rate privacy of a cubicle as essential, followed by hair dryers (56%), full-length mirrors (28%), free towels (23%) and music (20%). Privacy and hair styling is a particular issue for school age girls: 91% said changing cubicles were a must-have and that hair dryers (62%) and straighteners (25%) are also essential. WSFF is urging schools to invest in changing facilities if they want to attract more girls to sport.

Sue Tibballs, WSFF Chief Executive, said: "Sport needs to give the customer what she wants. Women enjoy spending time and money on the high street because retailers invest in creating an environment and experience that are designed specifically for them. There are 30 million women and girls in the UK, most of whom don't play any sport at all. If we're to build a genuine 2012 legacy, sport must start genuinely investing in women."

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