Mexico’s apparel industry hopes to save some $400 million by 2017 as a result of a study to identify the country’s ideal clothing sizes, paving the way for a sharp reduction in high merchandise-return rates.

“We hope to reduce the industry’s return costs by 2 percent a year,” Alejandro Faes, a board member of leading Mexican apparel industry chamber Canaive, told WWD. Faes, who helped oversee the study, said Mexican clothing manufacturers lose $4 billion, or 18 percent, of some $22 billion in domestic annual sales to merchandise returns.

Faes said the survey, which showed Mexicans’ average weight and height across 14 cities and several regions, will help clothing manufacturers set up a “Mexican molde” to make more-flattering fits for Latin America’s second-largest apparel market, worth $5 billion in imports.

Mexican consumers have for years complained sizes are never big enough or long enough for a generally short and often overweight population. Mexico has the world’s second-largest obesity rate after the U.S., and the highest in children.

Consequently, the country’s merchandise-return rate has remained one of the highest in Latin America.

According to the survey, which saw Canaive work in conjunction with Wal-Mart de Mexico, French fashion software firm Lectra and CVS Group, an average Mexican female ages 18 to 25 is 1.60 meters, or 5 feet 2 inches, tall and weighs 62.9 kilograms, or 138 pounds. Men of the same age range are 1.67 meters, or 5 feet 5 inches, tall, with an average weight of 77.30 kilograms, or 170 pounds. These statistics vary across regions and age brackets, however, making the study, which will soon be available for purchase online, a valuable marketing tool.

In northern Mexico, for example, women are shorter than in the center of the country and the southeast. Meanwhile, they are heavier in the central region and slimmer in the Bajio area. Men in the Bajio area are the tallest in Mexico, while in the center of the country they are shortest.

By knowing Mexicans’ measurements, “current problems linked to the manufacture and commercialization of clothing” can be diminished, Canaive said. And by understanding the anthropomorphic characteristics of a particular region, “the appropriate amount of raw materials can be used to suit its people, bringing with it a reduction in inventories and savings from using the right fabric and making the right fit.”

Carlota de la Vega, director of Fashion Group International in Mexico, praised the study, saying it should help big fashion chains like Inditex and others boost their sales.

“They will see how different a Mexican woman’s body is compared to a Spanish or Argentine one. Buyers will have a better idea of what sizes to bring to the market,” de la Vega said.

De la Vega added the survey was much needed. “Many stores carry sizes that don’t fit Mexicans. Some brands’ pants are often too long, with waists in European or American sizes that can be too small for this market. Now, manufacturers and retailers can have more certainty about the right size for their target segment. This is very useful information.”