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Growing pains of ill-sized clothing for both consumers and brands

By Angela Gonzalez-Rodriguez

1 Jan 2020

Business |ANALYSIS

New York - In the U.S. alone, Statista estimates return deliveries will cost 550 billion dollars by the end of this year, that’s 75.2 percent more than four years prior. Notably, that number doesn’t include restocking expenses nor inventory losses.

Size and fit were the top reasons why people return online orders, according to an analysis from post-purchase analysis company Navar. Their ‘The State of Online Returns: A Global Study’ found that nearly 50 percent of shoppers buy multiple sizes with intentions of having to return some of them.

Retailers globally lose more than 600 billion dollars annually due to returns

Supporting this finding is another report focused on the losses due to returns authored by IHL Group estimated that worldwide, retailers lose more than 600 billion dollars each year to sales returns. Labelled the "ghost economy" by IHL, retailers in North America accounted for 183 billion dollars of that number alone.

As shown by IHL Group’s research, wrong size was the number one reason for returns. While some analysts point out that some of this loss can be attributed to "customer-friendly" return policies, other might argue that the vast majority of it comes from poor service during the sale.

To this point, another recent study titled ‘Size North America’ - conducted by Human Solutions of North America -, surveyed 17,820 men, women and children through the use of 3D body scanners. "Size and fit are key factors in the buying process of fashion and apparel’s customer, and so are comfort and safety for a customer of the automotive industry," the authors of this report say on their website.

Should sizing standards be enforced by law?

While sizing standards for clothing exist, as outlined by the American Society for Testing and Materials, manufacturers and ready-to-wear retailers are not legally required to adhere to them. "Each manufacturer or design firm can imagine their ideal person, whether this person be curvy, straight or busty, and make clothing to fit this particular body shape," Dr. Lynn Boorady, professor and department head, Design, Housing and Merchandising at Oklahoma State University, told the morning show.

In 2002, Size USA conducted a national study on the body scans of more than 10,000 people to reflect an updated general sizing scale, according to an article on Buffalo State University's Fashion and Textile Technology website. The study found that the rectangular-shaped body is more prominent in the United States than the formerly standard hourglass. Boorady also points out that with the diverse nature of America, made of people of different ethnic backgrounds, ages and cultures, there is now a greater range of body shapes to fit and different cultural attitudes around fit.

Advanced tech to the rescue: MySize and Tru Fit lead the pack in the quest for perfect sized clothes

Is in this quest to overcome sizing disparities where platforms such as MySize and True Fit are thriving. The former gives shoppers the option to use mobile body scans to find exact real-time measurements within seconds. "In a sense, we provide the solution to making sure brands are both inclusive of all sizes and easily accessible to customers," Luzon said.

"Women are constantly bouncing between sizes or struggling to find the perfect fit," Ron Luzon, CEO and founder of MySize, an online resource that helps shoppers find their appropriate apparel sizing based on real-time body measurements, told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’." "Size variance is a real issue - you can jump four sizes or so in jeans depending on what brand you're trying on."

True Fit, uses user data to decode personal style, fit and size, as well as buying behaviours of consumers. It also offers a mobile App integration which allows anyone to use a scanning functionality that works with a wide variety of retailers to find the best size recommendations.

There are also retailers such as Universal Standard that carry sizes 00-40 that go the extra mile to not only provide options for a massive amount of body types, but the brand also understands how often sizing can change. The brand's Fit Liberty shopping program allows shoppers to return items and replace them with new size completely free of charge.

Image credits: Kai Pilger from Pexels