NEW YORK — Apparel retailers need to boost customer service if they want to increase market share, according to a new study.

This story first appeared in the September 8, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Almost 33 percent of the companies surveyed by ICC/Decision Services have sales associates who are not suggesting additional items to customers and more than 60 percent fail to bring new apparel to the fitting room.

The ICC study compiled 2004 data from January through July from more than 11,500 apparel store visits nationwide. The findings are used to help retail clients measure their results against those of competitors.

Customer satisfaction was judged in key sales areas such as greeting the shopper, sharing fashion and merchandise information, suggesting additional items for consideration, noting that a credit card can be used to purchase goods and thanking the consumer.

The firm concluded there is a lack of training, or none at all, among apparel retailers and even those who do training don’t do enough. In contrast to retailers that provide employees with seven-to-10 hours of training a year, The Container Store runs a program that provides 235 hours of annual training.

At the same time, suggestive selling represents a major opportunity for ready-to-wear clients, the study found.

While 57 percent of the “young women’s” retailers suggested additional items, more than 72 percent of retailers in the same category offered fashion advice. That compares with a higher 68 percent of rtw retailers that suggested additional items, yet just 42 percent of the same group offered fashion advice.