GAP INKS DEAL WITH EZSIZE FOR ONLINE FIT

Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Gap Inc. has started testing technology geared to give online shoppers a surer shot at selecting garments that fit properly, WWD learned Friday.
Gap signed a three-year exclusive agreement with EZsize, an apparel size and fit recommendation engine that matches up size data and fit preferences from consumers with garment specs from retailers and manufacturers, to provide shoppers with recommendations on what sizes to pick in the garments they select.
The e-tail Gap sites — Gap.com, BananaRepublic.com and OldNavy.com — are already very popular relative to the competition. But shopping for apparel online hasn’t taken off to the degree that many Internet and retail executives had hoped, and a major reason why consumers say they are hesitant is that they can’t first touch the fabric or try the garment on for size before buying it. There is about $8 billion in returned clothing to catalogs and e-tailers each year, with more than half of that estimated due to poor fits.
There is no standardization for sizes among brands and designers, which is a big problem in cyberspace.
However, the $11.6 billion Gap, based in San Francisco, hopes to reduce its return rate and increase consumer confidence in shopping online. “This new sizing and fit tool will make it easier for customers to shop for apparel online and in turn could reduce customer returns and exchanges,” said Ron Beegle, executive vice president of Gap Inc. Direct, in disclosing the deal with EZsize.
“One of the top concerns for online customers buying apparel is finding the correct size and fit,” added Jeffrey Roth, president and chief executive officer of EZsize, based here, who noted that EZsize should increase consumer confidence in purchasing clothes that fit, minimizing returns.
Roth also said signing up Gap was “a huge breakthrough” for his company, and its hopes of becoming the industry standard in fit technology. The deal also increases investor confidence in the technology.
Roth said Gap has begun testing EZsize’s Smart-Fit System and exchanging information and will determine which Gap merchandise and which divisions utilize the EZ system first. He called EZsize a multichannel approach for online selling in stores and catalogs.
No timing was given for launching the EZ technology on Gap Web sites or with other retailers.
EZsize is one of several emerging fit technologies competing for retail clients. Just last Tuesday, Lands’ End announced it selected My Virtual Model for using on its Web site. It’s a body scanning system enabling consumers to create virtual models of their bodies, and then drag and click clothing images onto the form on the computer screen.
EZsize is also planning body imaging, but only for inputting size and fit data, not creating a virtual model. EZsize will gather the size data through body scanners that will be set up in “pavilions” with 3D body imaging technology, at certain stores or malls. However, it’s expected that many more consumers will provide size data via their home computers. There will also be an associative database, based on size information from one brand that could be used for other brands.
EZsize previously said it signed agreements to implement its system with Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor and Esprit. Roth said that Saks will be the first retailer to have some body scanners at its stores, possibly before the end of the year. Aside from in the stores and online, the EZsize system is also applicable to catalog operations.
Currently, EZsize is not available on any Web sites. When it does become available, customers will be able to get EZsize recommendations on sizes and fits, on specific products and brands for themselves, as well as family and friends that also register with EZsize and input their personal fit data into the system.
EZsize is backed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice’s Grosvenor Street Partners III LLC; Vulcan Technology Partners; Easton Hunt Capital Partners LP, a few senior executives of Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, and Leucadia Investment Corp.
By early next year, the Web sites of at least a few big stores will be rigged with icons that recommend sizes to consumers across certain brands — as long as shoppers supply data on their body measurements and the sizes they prefer, and brands cooperate by feeding spec information to the sizing services. A lot of information has to be collected from consumers and suppliers. Hypothetically, if a customer says she’s a size two in Esprit, the computer tells her what size fits best in a Saks private label, or some other brand.
EZsize is designed to be simple for the shopper to use. For example, on saksfifthavenue.com, if a shopper selects a certain dress, the shopper just clicks the EZsize icon and a “size tag” pops up, indicating size and fit recommendations.
Besides the Lands’ End technology, other sizing technologies that will compete with EZsize for retail and vendor partners as well as financing are: Luuluu, which also provides virtual models for sizing visualizations on the computer; Adoto and TheRightSize, which are data-driven.
EZsize does not offer fashion advice, but will rate how well the item would fit.
Details of the Gap agreement were not disclosed. Previously, EZsize officials said their company will make money by charging commissions to the retailers based on clicks of the EZsize icon in the online world, and to catalogs, based on sales facilitated through the EZsize system. With a catalog, a consumer provides an EZsize ID that enables the call center representative to provide a size suggestion, based on information provided to EZsize from consumers.

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