Full-body ‘scanning studios’ promise apparel shoppers the perfect fit — and a touch-free experience that holds newfound appeal amid COVID-19.
By: Joan Verdon, Contributor
CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Fit:Match, the tech startup seeking to eliminate the need for dressing rooms, and mall developer Brookfield Properties have launched a partnership they believe is a perfect fit.
Fit:Match and Brookfield are opening full-body scanning studios in malls as a way to save consumers the hassle of trying on clothes, and save retailers the expense and waste of returned clothes that don’t fit.
At the studios, a 3-D camera takes a full-body scan of a shopper that registers 150 data points of measurement. The scan creates an ID to match the shopper with styles from participating retail brands that are a perfect fit.
Fort Lauderdale-based Fit:Match was born in 2018 with the goal of creating a world where shoppers never need to try on clothes. The COVID-19 pandemic, which closed fitting rooms nationwide, has accelerated demand for the Fit:Match solution.
A Fit:Match studio opened at Brookfield’s Oakbrook Center in suburban Chicago in early September. It plans to open studios at two other Brookfield properties — Glendale Galleria in Glendale, California, and Stonebrier Center in Frisco, Texas — in October.
Once they experience Fit:Match, or ‘get fitched,’ they’re thrilled with how quick and easy it is to find the right clothes through Fit:Match’s apparel partners.
Erin McCarthy, vice president of retail development, Brookfield Properties
‘Why are people still trying on clothes? This is something technology can solve.’
Fit:Match founder and CEO Haniff Brown told CO— he was motivated by seeing the waste created by returned clothing while working in investment banking and private equity as a retail specialist, and by seeing the inconvenience and headaches shoppers face when he needed to return clothes for his mother.
“We’re in the 21st century. Why are people still trying on clothes?” Brown recalled thinking. “This is something technology can solve and we should make it our vision.”
Brookfield Properties learned of Fit:Match when the company opened a trial studio in one of its malls, in Coral Gables, FL. Mall management there alerted Brookfield executives, and Brookfield reached out to Fit:Match about a broader expansion.
Oakbrook Center shoppers have responded enthusiastically to Fit:Match, Erin McCarthy, vice president of retail development at Brookfield Properties, told CO—. “Once they experience Fit:Match, or ‘get fitched,’ they’re thrilled with how quick and easy it is to find the right clothes through Fit:Match’s apparel partners,” she said.
Fit:Match resonates with Brookfield’s goal of finding “solutions for shoppers that align with the world that we’re living in today,” McCarthy said. It also is a boon to mall retailers, “many of whom are now faced with lengthy wait times, closed fitting rooms and frustrated shoppers,” she said. Fit:Match gives retailers’ customers “the information they need to make a quick and easy purchase,” she said.
Tackling fashion’s fit problem while reducing costly product returns
Brookfield doesn’t have an exclusive deal with Fit:Match, and the company is reviewing leasing offers from other mall developers. “But we plan to choose our partners wisely,” Brown said. Fit:Match is looking for mall partners who understand the company and want to help it grow.
Getting fit right is something of a Holy Grail for the fashion industry, as more clothing purchases shift online and returns have become a major expense and headache for e-commerce sellers.
For brick-and-mortar shoppers, the fitting room experience had deteriorated into something many wanted to skip, even before the pandemic, Candace Corlett, president of research and consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail, told CO—.
“The whole idea of trying clothes on in a store I think is what shifted so much clothing shopping online,” she said.
Department stores in recent years have had fewer fitting rooms and fewer salespeople to assist shoppers when they need a different size, Corlett said. “Retailers have made trying clothes on in stores a huge challenge,” she said.
Corlett noted that while other startups have tackled the fit problem, the timing could be perfect for Fit:Match to succeed. “The convergence now is we’re so much more aware of touching clothing that others have tried on and touched,” she said.
Getting ‘fitched’ (for free) to don 70-plus clothing brands
Other companies’ fit solutions typically require users to take their own measurements and enter them in an app or scan themselves with their phones.
Brown said the Fit:Match studios provide more accuracy and depth perception than phones and eliminate the possibility of user error.
After shoppers are scanned, they can enter information about their style preferences, such as whether they prefer loose-fitting clothes or more tailored options.
Through partnerships with more than 70 brands, shoppers who get “fitched” at a studio have the opportunity to order garments immediately, for home delivery, or to pick up that day at a mall store.
The service is free for shoppers. Fit:Match earns its revenue by taking a percentage of sales made through the app or by charging retailers a monthly fee to receive additional data about shopper preferences.
Brown said the company is generating revenue, and that although it is not yet profitable, he expects the path to profitability to be shorter than for most retail tech startups.
Shoppers have told Fit:Match that when they shop, they want stores and online retailers to “just show me what fits,” Brown said.
Fit:Match, he said, gives shoppers a way to instantly see an assortment of clothes that fit, and that match their taste.
“We believe not only will that create a more rewarding shopper experience, but it’s going to be better for the brands as well. They can spend less time and energy marketing items to you that won’t fit,” he said.