Just a quick thought for this week. 

With a few weddings coming up this Spring and Summer (including mine), I’ve recently taken an increased interest in suits and formalwear.  Shopping around this weekend for a few items to fill in my wardrobe, I found something very interesting in regards to sticky business models.

Indochino is a website out of Canada that makes custom suits and shirts for relatively low cost.  I have bought some things from them in the past and have been pleased with the results.   When I first ordered from them I visited a “fitting event” in New York City (where they have tailors measure you) and I’ve since spent a relatively long time tweaking and iterating on my measurements so that the clothes I order from them fit perfectly.  When I sat down this weekend to do a little online shopping, I figured I would do a little comparison-shopping to make sure I was getting the best deal.  To do this, I logged onto Indochino, wrote down my measurements and then went to go look for other stores that made custom clothing.  To my surprise, the measurement schema the Indochino uses (as well as the measurement schemas everyone else uses) is completely proprietary.  There is practically no way to take my perfect measurement profile from Indochino and apply it anywhere else.

I actually did a little more research on the topic and found that some websites didn’t even look like they shared your measurements with you.  They claimed to use body-scanning technology where they would electronically store a perfect mapping of your dimensions so you wouldn’t have to worry about remembering your size (or worry about being able to shop anywhere else).

Competitively incompatible sizing: just a nice little trick to keep your customers coming back.

Sticky Business Models
  • The Brooks Brothers flagship store, IIRC, actually does have a body-mapping scanner. If, y’know, you want that picture perfect fit.

    The hard part, incidentally, is that the sizing is proprietary. Not your measurements, which any tailor (or yourself) can do in a few minutes. But the sizing of the garments themselves: manufacturers use different body models and adjustments to (i) fit their customer base/reduce returns, (ii) minimize fabric use, and (iii) increase/decrease durability. I think Indochino are asking for additional measurements (above the normal) to make their clothing work better.

    Fundamentally, it’s not any different from how each clothing “line” in a department store uses subtly different measurements. A 32″ waist on a belt is… not actually 32″, and can change by a matter of inches from manufacturer to manufacturer.

    If it makes you feel better, women are much worse off when it comes to measurements. A size 2, or a size 0, different greatly across clothing lines.

    P.S. You seem to imply that the measurements are not standard, which doesn’t sound right to me. It should just be, e.g. neck, waist, chest, hips, shoulder, right arm length, left arm length, etc. Perhaps a few more or less depending on the degree of “made to measure” it is (since that encompasses everything from major mods to just a few tweaks here and there). And don’t forget that some companies will infer the other measurements based on a model they have – so that the compliance burden of doing the measurements is much less (otherwise customers don’t buy).

  • I wonder if the whole body scanning thing will catch on. Seems really cool to me.

    It would be awesome if a clothing retailer partnered with the TSA and allowed people to email their body scans from airport security to the store so they could be used for clothing sizing.

  • Body scanning certainly makes a lot of sense!

    I don’t believe the TSA detectors are sophisticated enough to generate accurate measurements. But they might be. Still, that’s a … well, not the best connection to make.