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Our Thought Provoking Insights

Is Mass Customisation ready for the retail market?

Mass customisation is just around the corner. At the Shoptalk conference in the US there was a brand new retailer. They claim to be the first proper retailer offering a general mass customization service on the high street. Given this is where retail is going I decided to try it out.

They currently sell a selection of shirts, trousers and accessories all of which can be customised. I went for a formal shirt. Price was $125. I was measured up and then matched with a sample shirt to test the size. The owner said it normally takes two or three goes to get the right fit. It took me three goes. You can then adjust the collar, buttons and other items depending on your preference. I found the measuring experience to be less precise than I had imagined.

There is definitely room for technology here to make things faster and simpler. The shirt was supposed to arrive within 10 days. It actually took three weeks. The shirt came and it was a great fit. It would certainly be an incentive to order again from them as they keep the measurements on file.

The problem for me is that every brand is different when it comes to fit. Will I have to do this for every brand? Or will there be some central place I can store my measurements and then I allow retailers to access it when needed? Will one set of measurements work or will there be different formats required by different companies, a bit like the old VHS vs Betamax!

It doesn’t feel like an edge that one retailer or brand can own as a USP. However, it does feel like something that if you don’t do then you will lose out. I think people will default to the brands that fit them best and make them feel special. Those that don’t offer the service will suffer in trade. The problem for these brands will be that it takes a lot of time and investment to create a digital backend development capability to support this kind of customisation. They may not have the luxury of this time to catch up so I suspect many will fall by the wayside.

Mass customisation I believe will become like next day delivery. It’ll gradually become a default expectation. If you don’t do it then you’ll have to have a pretty good reason why and the only apparel companies I see having that option will be those selling at the lowest price points. The rest will have to do it or suffer in trade and perhaps not even survive at all.



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