The consumer bugbear of the wrong size may become a thing of the past if the Intellifit 3-D scanning booth really catches on.
The booths, which companies such as Levi’s are using as an attraction in stores and at outdoor events, tell customers which sizes and styles of a particular brand are likely to fit them best.
Three-dimensional body scanners are not new, but Intellifit’s innovation is to let shoppers get scanned fully clothed in a clear plastic booth. Other scanners use lasers or white light that bounces off skin and clothing, so shoppers have to change into close-fitting shorts and an athletic top and enter a dark room. The Intellifit system determines a person’s measurements by bouncing radio waves off the moisture on his or her skin. The clear plastic booths make it easy for moms to keep an eye on their children while they’re scanned, said Edward Gribbin, president of the five-year-old privately held company, which is based in Horsah, Pa.
The scanners are not always accurate, but that does not seem to deter shoppers from trying and buying (see story below). Intellifit chief executive officer Albert Charpentier said that, in a test with 150 Levi’s customers, the scanners accurately predicted best-fitting sizes 92 percent of the time.
Customers apparently like the technology enough to stand in line to try it. Retailers that have used the scanners report that it boosts the number of browsers who become buyers by 20 to 50 percent, according to Gribbin. Levi-Strauss, which in March started the first of three tours it plans with the scanners, has found that 80 percent of people who get scanned buy jeans. The booths increase sales as well as the size of the average sale, according to Gribbin, although he declined to give specific numbers.
He said he believes the scanners also can help brands improve fit, reduce returns for online stores and catalogues and even decrease operational costs for certain kinds of shops, such as formalwear rental chains.
“The universal comment is ‘tell me what size I am so I don’t have to go into the fitting room,'” said Gribbin, who said he has spoken to people waiting to get scanned at many Intellifit installations. Women want the scanner to make their trips to the dressing room more efficient, whereas men want to skip trying on clothes altogether, he said.
About a dozen Intellifit scanners are in use across the country. Macy’s, Lane Bryant and David’s Bridal have been using the scanners in select locations since last year to gather data to improve the fit of their collections or to let shoppers know what size will fit them. Macy’s, for example, has been using the technology in its Willow Grove, Pa., store to improve the fit on its private label brands such as Charter Club and Alfani, said Gribbin.
So far, the Levi’s scanner has appeared in seven cities across the U.S. The scanner is currently in the company’s Seattle store, and will wind up its tour in Miami in early July.
Last week, Levi’s commenced a separate tour for its Signature brand, its line of jeans carried in mass market retailers such as Wal-Mart. First stop: a Wal-Mart parking lot in Bentonville, Ark., during the retailer’s annual meeting. The scanner, known as the Levi Strauss Signature Fit Pit, will travel to the Chicago Blues Festival, the Los Angeles County Fair, Summerfest in Milwaukee, 17 NASCAR events and other festivals through the summer. Levi’s plans to launch another scanner tour in Japan starting in mid-August.
Meanwhile, on July 14, Intellifit will put stand-alone kiosks into six malls in all regions of the country to recommend products and best-fitting sizes in a variety of brands. The company is signing up brands as sponsors now. Shoppers will get a bar-coded card that can be scanned at the point of sale so sponsors can track the effect of the recommendations on sales. Intellifit is working with three mall operators: General Growth Properties, Westfield and Penny’s Real Estate Investment Trust. Intellifit plans to make its fit technology accessible to a much broader population by putting it into 120 malls next year, Gribbin said.
Lands’ End recently signed a deal for several systems from the company to collect data on fit. The company is considering deploying the scanners in its outlet stores and also in public locations such as malls and airports, said Gribbin. In the latter scenario, the customer would get scanned and receive a confidential customer profile number that he or she could use to shop on Lands’ End at a kiosk in the same location.
After Hours Formal Wear, the largest tuxedo rental chain in the U.S., plans to install one of Intellifit’s machines in an Atlanta mall this month to cut down on alterations mistakes and last-minute rushes to redo orders, according to Gribbin.
The cost of renting a scanning booth from Intellifit starts at about $2,500 a month for a long-term lease.
As for matching shoppers with the correct size, Intellifit obtains confidential fit specs and grade rules from a brand and compares them with a shopper’s measurements. The number of measurements considered depends on the type of product. For example, the system might look at only four measurements to match a customer with a misses’ dress, but it would use six or seven measurements, such as the length between neck and waist, to determine if a customer would fit best into a petite dress. In the plus area, the system considers the length of the total rise to determine whether the customer would fit better into a women’s or misses’ size.
Starting next month, anyone who has been scanned will be able to go onto the Intellifit Web site and search by category (such as suits, swimwear or jeans) to find suggestions for brands and sizes that might fit them best. Brands will pay to be listed on the site.
Intellifit isn’t the only source of data about size that brands can use to improve their fit. Last year, the government- and industry-sponsored study SizeUSA obtained measurements from 10,000 men and women using white-light scanners from [TC]2, a nonprofit consortium sponsored by the government and industry that is based in Cary, N.C. But by using a scanner in the store, a brand can analyze its own customers, said Gribbin.
[TC]2 shipped 22 of its white-light scanners last year and plans to place about 50 this year, said David Bruner, director of research and development for the organization. Most of its scanners are used to obtain body measurements for custom clothing.
Brooks Brothers uses one of [TC]2’s scanners in its Fifth Avenue flagship. [TC]2’s biggest customer is Benchmark Clothiers, a custom men’s tailor based in Searcy, Ark. [TC]2 also is developing software, now in the beta test stage, that will automatically generate a 2-D clothing pattern from a 3-D scan. The software can speed up the process of making patterns for custom clothing or ready-to-wear. In the latter case, the brand could send its fit model to [TC]2 to be scanned rather than purchasing a scanner. VF Corp. and Brooks Brothers have both tried the software, Bruner said. [TC]2’s scanners range in price from $25,000 to $40,000, depending on the volume purchased.