Nearly half of the lingerie shops in Saudi Arabia have shut down after the kingdom brought in a law that allowed only women to be employed at apparel and undergarment stores three years ago.
Saudi Arabia had enforced the law in 2012 on a royal decree from the late King Abdullah, following voluble complaints from Saudi women who said they felt uncomfortable buying lingerie from men.
While the women in Saudi Arabia have come to appreciate the rule, it has hit businesses hard, with investors claiming that over 40% of lingerie shops in the kingdom have closed down, according to the Saudi Gazette.
Difficulty in employing enough women to work at lingerie shops was one of the main reasons for the businesses to shut shop, according to the report.
High attrition rate among women was another factor for the setback to lingerie shop owners, who complained that most women left their jobs without notice while many remained absent for several days.
The Ministry of Labour has now begun conducting field trip to shopping centres to investigate reasons for women's absence and to discuss the issue with the owners on creating a suitable environment for women.
The labour ministry had said in 2012 that as many as 28,000 women, including many migrants, had applied for the jobs at the lingerie and apparel stores.
"The reason why women leave their jobs at shops, according to what the ministry recorded in some shopping centers in Riyadh and Jeddah, is the lack of resting areas designated for women only," an official from the ministry told the Saudi new agency.
The official also cited the lack of enough bathrooms as a reason women abstained from working in shopping centres.
The law to allow only female employees at lingerie stores was implemented after years of campaigning by Saudi women, and was brought into force despite a warning from the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, that employing women was 'against Islamic Sharia law'.