Just two years ago, this writer had interacted with dozens of firms from across the world providing sizing solutions to fashion-retail companies. The premise at that time too had been the same: sizing up the segment as a journalistic exercise. But pinging many of them resulted in mails that bounced back. On following up to their websites, it transpired that many of the domains do not even exist today. Many of the sizing solution providers have since virtually disappeared into thin air.
The impression one had got last time was that there would be a sharp—if not meteoric—rise in the number of "sizing" professionals and companies in the industry. The disappearance of such companies, needless to say, came as a surprise. Now, would that mean that competition is getting tougher by the day, and that the shakeout in the sector has already started to happen?
Bold Metrics Co-Founder and COO Morgan Linton believes there is more to it than meets the eye. "We have seen the fit technology space in an acquisitive state over the last year or so, with several acquisitions taking place. Some more recent acquisitions include Snap, Gap, Zalando and Walmart for technologies that could help solve the issue of returns and sizing."
Linton is right. In August last, American clothing retailer Gap acquired e-commerce startup Drapr, which had built a technology that let customers try on clothing virtually to ensure a better fit from home. Drapr had been designed to help customers find the best clothing size and fit for their personal style and body type, while helping retailers reduce unnecessary returns.
The Gap takeover had come soon after US giant Walmart in May 2021 acquired Israeli fashion startup Zeekit that combined fashion and technology through its dynamic virtual fitting room platform to create a significantly enhanced customer and social experience. The solution—Choose My Model—was unveiled to customers in March this year.
The earliest big-time acquisition was from March 2021 when US messaging app company Snap bought over digital sizing company Fit Analytics. The Berlin-based Fit Analytics helped consumers pick the right size of clothing when they shopped online. The early move was part of Snap's long-term plan to bring more e-commerce and in-app purchases to the Snapchat messaging app.
Nikita Dobrynin, Founder and CEO of Kiev-based AstraFit, too gives the examples of acquisitions (by Gap and Walmart). He goes on to add: "We've seen many size/fit solution companies come and go during the past few years. This happens because the idea of solving the size/fit problem is quite straightforward and there is potentially a good market for those solutions. What many of them have faced is that creating a well-performing solution is quite a complicated task that requires cross-discipline teams. This is a common fail-reason. The interest of large investor companies in the market is permanent since 2009 and has also shown significant growth, especially since the beginning of 2020."
Sebastian Schulze, Founder and CEO of Fit Analytics, has of course seen it all. He agrees that there is consolidation in the market, "but I wouldn’t call it a shake-out as much as a clear indication that new companies aiming to make a mark must do something different (or better) than has already been done. Sizing, style, and fit technologies are more complex and nuanced than many companies think when they start out—it’s not as simple as 'map shopper to a size they already wear and recommend the same size in a different garment.' It takes an incredible volume of data to truly generate accurate recommendations, and that data is only available over time for a sizing company."
But, the issue will still be about solutions. Linton says: "While there are many small startups that tackle difficult problems like sizing, that is not unique to any space in particular. If there is a real problem that persists, there will always be entrepreneurs in the wing working on solutions. As the apparel and retail industry moves through an impressive and accelerated digital transformation brought on by the digital-first dominant consumer, we expect the space to blossom further as more brands look to digital channels for revenue growth."