China is one of the most heavily populated countries in the world with overcrowding and very little personal space available. Despite that, while there are few taboos on how close men can get to other men or women to women, it is widely frowned upon for improper physical contact between the opposite sexes outside the bounds of a formal relationship.
Such contact in public is usually limited at the most to touching an arm or a sleeve and almost never between a man and a woman who are strangers.
So it caused considerable shock when this shoe store took the step of moving their female staff to other branches, and employing only male shop assistants as part of a pilot project to test the reaction.
And while many women when they realised strange men would be manhandling their feet walked out, others particularly younger women said they found the idea a good one if somewhat strange. They said they were not put off visiting the store by the fact that men were serving them.
The move is also a practical one by the store's management. China's one child policy and the preference for male children has caused massive gender imbalance in the country creating a huge shortage of women and in particular shop staff. By testing the water and employing men in a traditional female role, the store in Wuxi city in east China’s Jiangsu province is opening up a whole new potential labour force that was previously unavailable.
Store spokesman Sying Chin said: "It is a pilot project but the initial reaction has been positive and when it's over we will consider expanding it to other parts of the country. We chose only men who were good-looking and all of them had to be tall in order to make sure they stood out."
He said that the male staff are being paid more than women but added that this was necessary in order to help bring about a change in attitudes and to persuade men to take on a role that might otherwise normally have been reserved for women.
Source: Austrian Times