John Lewis has been criticised after telling a feminist activist that shoppers in its stores can change in whichever changing room they "feel most comfortable" in.
Jean Hatchet pressed the department store on its policy after a visit to the Sheffield branch earlier this month during which she says she asked if she could change in the men's changing room and was given different answers by two staff members, one of whom said she could and another who said she couldn't.
She then contacted John Lewis asking for its policy and shared the reply she received on Twitter. In it, the department store said that while shoppers could choose the changing room they felt most comfortable in, staff could exercise their own judgement in the implementation of the policy.
"As an inclusive business, our policy states that customers are welcome to use whichever fitting room makes them feel the most comfortable," the reply reads.
"As a co-owned business, we empower our partners to use their own judgement on how this policy should be applied on a case-by-case basis.
"Regardless of specific policy, if a customer were to act inappropriately, the necessary action would be taken."
Ms Hatchet expressed her disappointment at the reply in a Twitter post.
"Finally heard from John Lewis. They will let men in female changing rooms. That's that. No debate. Why do all these stores hate women?" she wrote.
Twitter users criticised the response from John Lewis.
One user wrote: "Why do companies keep using this word 'inclusive' When these policies clearly EXCLUDE women and girls."
Another said: "Another company that will take action AFTER the event, rather than proactively protecting the safety of customers."
Some Twitter users responding to her post said they would boycott the store as a result of the policy.
"The fitting room I feel most comfortable in is a single sex, all-female one. As is allowed by law. So I guess I'll be taking the ££££ I usually spend at John Lewis each year and spending it elsewhere," said one user.
"So that leaves us with no high street stores willing to uphold women's rights to single sex changing rooms," wrote another.
A John Lewis spokesman told the Metro that the policy had been in place for a number of years and had been introduced following a consultation with "relevant stakeholders".
"When developing any shop policy, we always consult with relevant stakeholders across the business and, where appropriate, outside of our business," the spokesman said.
"When it comes to putting policy into practice, as a co-owned business we ensure that all of our Partners understand their responsibilities and exercise their judgment appropriately. Regardless of specific policy, if any customer were to act inappropriately, the necessary action would be taken."