Finding the Right Fit for Women and Retailers

Discussion
Mar 31, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


New standardized sizing systems might make it easier to find the right fit for women looking to buy clothes off the rack but that may not suit retailers, reports The New York Times.


Fit Technologies has developed a sizing system that produces clothing to fit three basic body types: straight silhouette, curvy and pearlike. The company identifies the fit by placing a one, two or three after the traditional size so that a woman wearing a 10 with a curvy figure, for example, would have her apparel identified as 10.2.


While standardized sizing offers clear benefits to consumers, systems such as Fit Technologies’ can be problematic for retailers.


The need for more specific sizing requires that more inventory be carried. Instead of carrying a quantity of size 10 dresses, for example, a retailer would need to order based on three versions of the same basic size. The net result, some say, would be that retailers would need to carry more items and provide additional space to display product.


Stores would also need to provide additional staff training on understanding the sizing system and helping consumers make the right choices.


Retailers have also been known to benefit from consumer confusion over sizing. Because of a lack of a single standard, consumers tend to stick with certain brands and stores when they find the right fit. By taking this factor out of the equation, consumers would be free to shop anywhere.


While there may be challenges, proponents of systems such as that offered by Fit Technologies say it can help retailers better satisfy customers and reduce returns. According to research from NPD Group, 36 percent of women return clothing because it is not the right fit. Those returns, NPD estimates, equal 12 percent of all clothing sales.


A number of retailers, including Macy’s and Nordstrom, have tested the Fit Technologies system with a limited number of items produced by Jones Apparel and Garfield & Marks. Macy’s has chosen to discontinue the line while Nordstrom said it has no plans to expand what it is currently doing.


The issue is purely financial, said Nancy Jones, vice president for marketing at Garfield & Marks. While acknowledging the benefit to consumers, she added, “We have not figured out how to get this concept out to our stores in a fashion they can accept financially and commit to in terms of space.”


Moderator’s Comment: Do the benefits of a sizing system such as that offered by Fit Technologies outweigh the challenges associated with it from a retailer’s
perspective?

George Anderson – Moderator

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8 Comments on "Finding the Right Fit for Women and Retailers"


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Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Most clothing retailers aren’t customer-driven. They might claim they are, but their actions certainly aren’t. Men’s dress shirts used to be sold with sleeve lengths to the half inch. More and more stores sell men’s shirts with sleeve sizes to the inch or 2 inches. Retailers prefer 4 or 5 sizes to 12 or 16 sizes. Shoes used to come in at least 3 widths. Many shoes are now carried in medium only, or even more creatively, they’re marked with 3 widths but manufactured with only one. The few retailers with honest sizing in extended ranges earn their customers’ loyalty and have less competition. But it’s a very long term investment. Trying it for a season or two won’t pay off. It needs to be a 5 or 10 year commitment. How many executives last 10 years at a single clothing retailer?

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

In a word, “No.” Inventory issues aside, does anybody think they are going to sell more dresses to customers some manufacturer describes as a Size 14 — pear-shaped person?

Giacinta Shidler
Guest
Giacinta Shidler
14 years 10 months ago

It’s a nice idea but I don’t see it working. There are a lot of women who won’t fit neatly into one of those types but be “somewhere in between,” so it still won’t necessarily solve the problem of finding a perfect fit. Not to mention the confusion of trying to decode the diplomatic, PC terms to figure out what body shape they’re REALLY talking about.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

This isn’t going to change the fact that when a woman finds a style and size that suits her, she will be loyal to the retailer and manufacturer who supply it. Call it what you will, size matters.

Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
14 years 10 months ago

No. As much as a uniform system makes sense and is wanted by consumers, it is just not possible. First of all, the word “fit” is incredibly elusive. What one women sees in the mirror as “great fit,” another women with an identical figure might see as “too loose” or “too tight”. In addition to different styles and looks that are constantly changing along with the constant changes in our own body (daily with some of us), brands have always had their own definitions of fit. Different countries and cultures also weigh in with differing and changing views. This is one thing that can not and will not ever be standardized.

Amy Platt
Guest
Amy Platt
14 years 10 months ago

In my opinion, larger, multiple retailers with enough floor space have no excuse not to be able to offer a more detailed size range that will so obviously benefit the consumer. There are certain garment types, such as skirts, trousers and shirts, that can on occasion vary in cut so drastically that it would seem almost wrong not to implement if the technology is there to facilitate it. However, the nature of the garment and its desired fit will dictate if this technology will be of benefit and it must be remembered that only limited lines would actually require it to be applied, which seems to narrow the argument against roll out somewhat.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
14 years 10 months ago

Isn’t this the tail wagging the dog? Manufacturers have always tailored their clothes differently and some brands fit certain body types better than others. If someone has figured out a way to label that, OK, but do we think manufacturers are going to start making more lines just because someone decided they should label them 1, 2, or 3? Will retailers suddenly triple inventory? Doubtful at best.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

“Straight,” “curvy,” and “pearlike” are not a size issue as much as they are a silhouette issue – that is why everyone from Victoria’s Secret to Gap, Banana Republic and other retail brands offer pants with names that refer to types of fits – low waist, high waist, etc. Gap and Banana just describe each fit and give it a name (at Gap, you’ll see “Curvy,” “Original,” and “Straight” – at Banana, you’ll see names such as “Martin” or “Harrison”) – they trust that the consumer already has an idea which type of fit flatters their figure. Victoria’s Secret is more blatant by stating the goal of each fit (one makes you look taller, one minimizes girth, etc.) just in case you’re not sure. This seems to me a much more effective and less controversial way to talk about fit and silhouette – one that also builds loyalty for the brand. (If you love your Martins in black wool, you’ll order in brown and come back for linen come spring.)

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