A very Interesting video about Internet jargon:
Retail shopping is being transformed by technology in multiple ways. A recent article in USA Today titled ” Why shopping will never be the same,” by Jon Swartz touches on just a few of them.
This blog post has a follow-up guest post to a recent posting titled: Demand Manufacturing: AM4U (Apparel Made 4 You). I asked Bill Grier (founder and current chief technology officer (CEO) of Critical Mass Manufacturing (CMM), Bud Robinson (Chief Marketing Officer of Critical Mass Manufacturing Inc.) and Dr Peter Kilduff (chair of Cal Poly’s Apparel Merchandising and Management department (AMM)) to comment by developing the guest post below on the perfect storm currently taking place in the US apparel industry.
Current Online Apparel Sales Trends
How PAM and Mini-Factories can help us Avoid the US Apparel Industry’s Perfect Storm
We may never see a “parting of the waves” opportunity like this again, where crisis level problems meet potential solutions head on. The confluence of technological advances and market need has never been more in sync than it is today. Yet with all this opportunity the apparel sector has been slow to recognize and embrace change, blinkered and straight-jacketed via sunk investments that link distant low-cost offshore manufacturing locations to increasingly dynamic and fragmented consumer needs. The reality is that the existing US apparel marketing philosophy of mass foreign production, seasonal market overloading, up to 50% markdowns, and eventual unsold product dumping, is becoming increasingly untenable economically, environmentally, and (ultimately,) politically.
Yet, we have solutions close at hand if we just extend our reach. Here is a list of the available technologies that have developed separately over the last ten years.
- We have a massive sophisticated consumer base with an expanding multichannel retail infrastructure (ERP, CRM) ready to serve.
- Bar code SKU based prediction profiles for trends and purchasing patterns.
- Both the government (DAMA) and the private sector have created efficient and accurate tracking (RFID) and communication/control (PLM, MMS) programs for supply chain management.
- Incredible design and visualization capabilities, with digital 2D and 3D computer-aided design (CAD) applications enhancing product development capabilities.
- Body scanning to obtain up-to-date sizing data, improved fit selections and with the promise to enable virtual reality fit to avatar permitting custom fit and custom design.
- Cutting and sewing technologies enhanced by computer integrated manufacturing systems are evolving at digital speeds.
- “Change-on-the-fly” digital printing technology that utilizes fewer water and energy resources and is perfect for the shorter runs needed by today’s fickle fashion industry.
- New advances in chemical-physics have unlocked the ability to permanently dye and print the polyester, spandex and nylon micro fabrics that dominate today’s worldwide fashion choices.
Individually, these technologies have provided the industry with opportunities for significant but incremental advances. When amalgamated, as demonstrated by the Apparel Made for You (AM4U) project, they open the way for a radical new approach to apparel retailing and manufacturing – one that begins with the consumer purchase and integrates this with fabric and garment design, retail selling and garment assembly. This Purchase Activated Manufacturing (PAM) model will produce custom-designed, custom fitted, and custom labeled apparel, eliminating finished goods inventories and dramatically improving profitability. At the same time, it will considerably reduce pollution, energy and water use, and return a significant number of apparel jobs back to the USA. PAM has the potential to be the most disruptive technical event to affect the sewn goods industry since the innovations pioneered by Elias Howe and Isaac Singer. PAM promises an answer to the building storm of eroding profit margins, and the generation of huge waste and pollution in a world progressively expending its natural resources. Not so much a perfect storm more a parting of the waves.
The Top Challenges in Apparel Retail
Reducing Out-of-Stocks. This is more critical than ever to apparel retailers, since many have adopted defensive inventory practices designed to keep only as much inventory in the store as is absolutely needed. This has put significant pressure on retailers to enhance supply chain efficiency by having real-time visibility to merchandise levels in their stores and at distribution centers. PAM/Mini-Factory: Garments are stored in digital form and sized to fit and produced when purchased. There is no out-of-stock for any product ever stored in the inventory i.e., a standard DVD will hold over 1200 digital garments including all colors and sizes.
Lowering the Cost of Inventory. Retailers had to adapt during the recession, making difficult cuts to their inventories in order to avoid overstocks and markdowns. But the short selling seasons of apparel, as well as frequent reconfiguration of products on the sales floor, makes this challenge particularly poignant in the apparel industry. PAM/Mini-Factory: By targeting PAM production on high inventory cost and high risk designs, colors and prints, retailers can use a single display or touch screen image in place of product on the floor.
Improving Speed to Market. Fashions change at blinding speed, and new trends and consumer preferences emerge at the blink of an eye – today, even more than in the past. Apparel brand-owners must get their products from the design center to the store faster than ever, and retailers must stock and sell those products immediately while consumer interest is at its highest – and before the next selling season begins. PAM/Mini-Factory: With real time design, on the fly patternmaking and one-off production, retailers can test the market continuously without delay or cost. Consumers can make, color and print changes and see them on their bodies before they purchase.
Reducing or Reallocating Labor. Gross margins on apparel have dropped significantly in the past two years as a result of the recession, as retailers have slashed prices to move merchandise. This has put renewed pressure on retailers to be more efficient with their labor allocation in order to recoup a few percentage points of margin lost by price-cutting. Additionally, more retailers have begun adopting source tagging, moving the process of attaching tags to the front end of the supply chain, where it can be done more cost effectively. PAM/Mini-Factory: Consolidation of tasks removes the dye-house, the wet printer, the label maker, the hang-tag printer, the cutter and all the transportation and duties in between these sites. The key to gross profits is not paying less per person but to pay less people. A mini-factory will pay less people higher wages and still more than double gross profit.
Generating Data to Manage and Maximize Programs. As both sales and gross margins have slipped among apparel retailers and brand owners in recent years, more money has been spent on direct-marketing programs to drive store traffic and encourage purchasing activity. But retailers need additional, real-time information in order to determine what promotions are working and which ones are not, while manufacturers need this information to determine which retailer marketing campaigns they will continue funding. PAM/Mini-Factory: PAM is both real time and real money data, plus it generates size and demographic details never before available. Remember there are no markdown or sale promotions because there is no inventory to markdown.
Preserving Brand Integrity. Apparel counterfeiting remains a huge, vexing problem. It robs retailers of legitimate sales opportunities, erodes margins, confuses supply-chain partners and erodes a brand in the eyes of consumers who receive shoddy substitutes for the real thing. Retailers and brand-owners are taking extra steps to ensure that their brands are properly and consistently presented to consumers. PAM/Mini-Factory: Total manufacturing control of high end products allows security and anti-counterfeit techniques and applications never before possible.
Enhancing Customer Satisfaction. Research from Harvard Business School has consistently noted that when a product is out of stock when a customer comes in, that customer is highly likely to shop for the product in another store and perhaps unlikely to return again in the future to the original store for that product. It also means that the customer doesn’t buy additional apparel products and accessories, robbing the retailer of important add-on sales and profits. PAM/Mini-Factory: The consumer participates in the fitting and coloring in real time online or in the store and since the inventory is digital nothing is ever out of stock.
Reducing Shrink. Apparel is the number-two category for shrink worldwide, according to the Global Retail Theft Barometer. Reducing shrink is a huge step toward improving the bottom line of apparel retailers, especially considering that higher-margin products such as accessories, designer-label clothing and intimate apparel are stolen at even higher rates. PAM/Mini-Factory: Every garment has an owner before it even starts through the factory. Elimination of shrink is a major contributor to increased gross profit.
Maximizing Sales. At a fundamental level, retailers are in business to sell products that their customers want to buy, and they need to do everything possible to maximize sales. Having the right mix of products, maintaining adequate shelf availability, and keeping prices competitive are all key to their long-term success. PAM/Mini-Factory: The PAM selling strategy increases consumer participation, provides for multichannel convenience (in store, online/in store pickup, online/ship) and creates personal tailor level customer loyalty.
An example of the PAM Mini-Factory strategy for recovering the US apparel manufacturing base can be seen daily in thousands of Lowes, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, and other home centers and paint stores through the country. Paint was a staple product for years but it suffered from high inventory costs and large floor space consumption. The problem was that every color had to be in stock and if you did try to mix a new color it was almost impossible to match the customer’s chip. Sound familiar…? Then a smart young lady decided to apply the new low cost spectrophotometer technology to the problem. This permitted colors to be mixed and matched in-store right at the counter with white paint! Voila! Purchase Activated Manufacturing mini-factories were born in home centers across the United States (and the rest of the world)! Suddenly, integrated diverse technologies joined to reduce waste and inventory and more than double gross profit.
Standby, because in the next guest blog post, Bill, Bud and Peter will demonstrate how to maximize profits through matrix product selection and multichannel sales distribution.
One of my most popular posts on this blog from 2008 is titled: Avatars For Weight Loss and Exercise. Since the subject is something that interests many, I thought I would update the subject for you based on updates/changes in technology.
You have to try this BMI visualizer – it is really neat!
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. This BMI visualizer is an outgrowth of our research on human body shape modeling, statistics, and perception. It uses a statistical model of human body shape created from thousands of detailed laser range scans of human bodies. From these bodies we analyze how human shape varies with age, weight, gender, etc. to create a mathematical model of body shape variability.
If you want to see how body shape is related to Body Mass Index visit their BMI Visualizer: Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure calculated using your height and weight to estimate how much body fat you have.
Pennington Biomedical Research Weight Loss Predictor
You input your age, height and weight and then set the bar to the number of calories you decrease per day and you see how much weight you can lose without exercise in a year. Link to Dieting vs. Exercise for Weight Loss by Gretchen Reynolds.
[TC]2: Turning Research into Reality
- Health/medical and fitness management
- Body shape and body composition (body fat) analysis tools.
- More information [including pricing for the KX-16] is on this previous blog post titled,“[TC]2 , Textile Clothing technology Corporation: 3D Body Scanning Technologies.”
TC2 Image Twin Single Windows Kinect Body Scanner Accurate human avatars for all applications including size selection advice, virtual fashion and weight loss visualization. Retail uses for Kinect – to create your own personal avatar including face for size selection, virtual fashion [try-on], and weight loss simulation end uses for home, Web-based, retail or smart phone use.
What smart phone applications can you use the KX-16 full body scanner or the [TC]2 Image Twin Single Windows Kinect Body Scanner with?
One of the unique and best features about this Image Twin mobile browser weight loss system is that the user can either input manual measurements, upload a body shape scan from a home based Single Windows Kinect set-up, or upload your actual bodyscanner data from your own scanner or from a registered partner scanner!
Here is a link to [TC]2′s virtual fashion and size suggestion and mobile browser weight loss main Web page. They have a generic demo version posted to give you an idea of how this application can work. They have two links to connect it to mobile smart phone devices. Here is the mobile link for the Mobile Browser Weight Loss.
The animated gif above will give you an idea what the Mobile Browser Weight Loss looks like in a mobile device. You can select the body tab and either manually enter data specifying height, weight, age or you can upload data from a home based Kinect station or from a body scanner. Once your weight is entered you can select hairstyles, faces features [yes you can upload your own face].
More [TC]2 product and services information is on previous post titled, “[TC]2 , Textile Clothing technology Corporation: 3D Body Scanning Technologies“.
MVM: Online Avatar Weight Simulation
My Virtual Model [MVM] has developed a Weight Loss Simulator using a generic avatar that is still very popular with users. Since my last post, I have conducted some Web research and noticed that a large number of Web users were having difficulty locating it, or if they did locate it they could only locate the female version and were not able to personalize it.
Judging by some of the post comments I have discovered it seems to be a very inspirational visual tool for many people on the Web that are struggling with weight management issues.
Currently The MVM Weight Loss Simulator for men and women can be accessed via the MVM site here:
Click on the Personalize to adjust your skin color, hair, age, body shape, etc According to Gregory Saumier-Finch from My Virtual Model, “MVM is licensing the weight loss simulator to sites that promote weight loss. It has a proven track record to double traffic, to increase sales, and email contacts as well.” Here is a link to a recent post MVM: My Virtual Model Update.
I noticed from my Web research that some were using the OptiTex personal model as a weight management tool, measurements are metric.
There have been recent articles published illustrating the positive effects of using either a generic avatars or an avatar customized to represent us as an exercise partner. Weight management is such a struggle and technology has no doubt contributed to the rise of obesity, so if technology can motivate exercise – that’s a good thing.
Using Generic Avatars
Here is a link to an article to refer to about using generic avatars for exercise partners or representations of ourselves is an area of your interest:
- Need workout motivation? Try a virtual partner By MyHealthNewsDaily.com
Wii Exercise Games
Can you really get fit with Wii exercise? The following article is from WebMD will provide you some information,” Experts weigh in on the value of video game exercise,” By Annabelle Robertson.
For Kids The bottom line for Wii Exercise and Kids articles? Wii exercise is an enhancement not a replacement for real world exercise. In fact that actually is the bottom line for all video exercise games.
- Can You Really Get Fit With Wii Exercise Games? Active video games don’t mean kids exercise more By Genevra Pittman.
For Seniors I believe Wii exercise games are excellent activity for seniors. Any activity that involves movement is a good thing for seniors plus it encourages social interaction and that is also a positive things for seniors. Here is a video and some articles on the subject:
- Exercise, Video Games and Elderly Brains By Dr. Karl
- Combination Video Games and Exercise Good for Seniors Combo video game, exercise helps seniors stay sharp at the Science Blog
ZUMBA and Wii Kinect for Xbox:
Unique Solutions Tanya Shaw, President [Founder] and CEO of Me-Ality by Unique Solutions
Exciting things are happening at Unique Solutions. Body scanners that aim to ensure the perfect fit have attracted a $30-million investment for Unique Solutions.
Northwater Capital Management Inc.’s Intellectual Property Fund is putting the money into Unique Solutions Design Ltd. The cash infusion will allow Unique Solutions to open more than 300 of its scanning kiosks across North America by the end of 2013. Tanya Shaw states, “As of June 2012, 500,000 people have been scanned and Me-Ality has over 65 size matching locations that are open in malls across the US.” [article link: Body scanners help shoppers get better fit]
Where will all of those body scanners be located? Click here to see if one will be near you.
Size matching service answers the frustrating question…What is my size?
No more will our shopping experience either in the real world or the on-line world involve totally guessing how that brand will fit you. It is an open secret that there are no consistent sizing standards for clothing brands so it is a total gamble for a prospective buyer especially when they are purchasing online how that particular brand will fit. Vanity sizing is common among brands and some brands use it to give them a psychological ” vanity edge.” [translation: $ales] Instead of “those lying eyes” in retail it is now “Oh those lying brand sizes,” combined with a dose of self-denial from all of us.
Some brands actively manipulate the sizes to appeal to the customers vanity ego as a competitive tool to use against other brands with similar price points, but other brands have honestly been trying to provide as much information as possible to empower their customers to order the best size for their body shape. They realize that the lo$$ percentage due to returns from chaotic and random sizing far outnumbers the additional rate of sales for “vanity sizing.”
The task in the past has been near impossible. Why? Because the culturally diverse US only has one sizing survey “public” database [SizeUSA] in the last 40 years. [see 3D Bodyscanner – Ready to Wear, Cornell University]
From the [TC]² site about Size USA:
[TC]² conducted a comprehensive sizing survey of the U.S. population, scanning nearly 11,000 individuals in 12 locations across the U.S. The first such survey in over 40 years, SizeUSA provides current measurements on the sizes and shapes of today’s adult consumer. [NY Times archive article]
Using this vast data base of scanned subjects, [TC]² can provide statistically accurate shape and sizing data analysis for manufacturers, brands, and retailers to improve fit.
SIZE UK using TC2 scanners
TC2 scanners were used to gather 3D body scans for SIZE_UK_STATISTICS during 2001 & 2002. During this time approximately 11,000 scans were captured and a total of 1.5 million measurements have been analysed.
Alvanon sizing surveys in China and France:
In 2008 Alvanon released the results of a body scanning survey in China and published those results: A 2008 fashion industry survey: The average US female is 5’4″ at 155 lb?
Alavanon also collaborated with: the Institute Francais du Textile et de l’Habillement (IFTH) to create standard French sizes for the apparel industry. The study, conducted by IFTH in 2006, which included more than 11,500 scans of French citizens in 37 different sites in France, provides powerful insight into how to improve fit for the French body for apparel brands both in France and those seeking to gain a competitive advantage in the market Link to announcement here.
Phase I? What is Phase II?
Now the title of this blog posting is that Me-Ality represents Phase I towards revolutionizing the way we shop. You may be wondering what is phase II? Really exciting developments are underway right now incorporating Microsoft Kinect based technology to initiate and fast forward development of the Phase II: that includes the development of holy grail home fit services for online shopping. Bodyscanning on the retail site “or at home” and in addition to accurate body size match up to a variety of brands. Once the users body is scanned, the user can then virtually select and try on brands [to test accurate fit] that are matched up to the bodyscan. Customized clothing or garment patterns can be ordered from in store “or home” using this service. Here is a link to some earlier research in this area from Cornell University College of Human Ecology. More in future posts.
Update: If Me-Ality installs 300 bodyscanner brand size matching services in shopping centers across North America, they will have addressed and resolved a portion of the accurate sizing issue for online retailers. Once your accurate body measurements are in the Me-Ality database, you can shop online for accurate fitting clothing.
About Unique Solutions Ltd.
They develop and commercialize advanced body measurement technologies and maintain the largest database of body measurements that accurately reflects the real size and shape of people. The company’s proprietary technology yields aggregate data and body measurement information that readily translates into better fitting products and services.
Me-Ality [formerly mybestfit]
What is it? Me-Ality is a FREE service that matches body sizing to specific brand sizing measurements that takes less than 10 minutes from Scan to Shopping Guide and makes it easy to find the best fitting clothes for your unique body. Customers are given a shopping list of jeans and apparel that will fit and flatter them. Specific brands and stores in the mall that carry those brands are listed to find their selections. They can also narrow their list to specific style features, or to favorite brands, or the price they want to pay.
Here is a link that will show you the current brands that are working with the Me-Ality service.
The Intellifit Virtual Fitting Room is a high-accuracy scanner utilizing low emitting radio waves to capture 200,000 points of data on a fully clothed individual in less than 20 seconds. It includes a high-volume transaction server to store a customer’s shopping profile and body measurement information. The data collected can be converted into body measurements for the purpose of size and styling recommendations, product customization as well as health and wellness indicators and progress tracking.
Online Size and Stylist Recommendation Software
Unique licenses its customer measurement database for use in body research, and technical design applications. This data could also be licensed in aggregate to apparel brands, or used for marketing to consumers through their affiliate programs through our mybestfit service.
The program is available to retailers and apparel and lifestyle manufacturers who sell apparel and lifestyle products through an e-commerce portal; or want to enhance their brick-and-mortar customer experience with the ability to quickly size-match customers to their products. Managed Business Services An all-inclusive scanning service offered to industries which require high volume scanning (measurement collection) during a specified and short period of time. This service is aimed at those who would like the scanner to come to their location as opposed to sending people to an outside location. Consumer Reports Fitness and wellness Comprehensive Measurements.
Links to Unique Solutions News
Alavnon uses and links cutting-edge technology to create an innovative transformational process that results in a full service fit and sizing company that offers brands the elusive goal of determining a custom sizing standard for their brand and developing custom forms [that reflect their clientele] and pattern blocks to ensure quality and consistent fit for their product.
Products and Services
Listed below are current products and services provided by Alvanon:
AlvaInsight develops fit specifications and grade rules to provide the best fit for the “sweet spot” of your target customer base. Integrated methodology combines technical design expertise, analytical skill, our global body measurement and shape database to redefine particular product specifications and apply anatomically aligned grade rules.
AlvaScan is the first step to improving fit by capturing the exact body specifications of your target market. This customized scanning service utilizes portable and easy-to-use, cutting edge technology to gather relevant data. AlvaScan utilizes safe millimeter wave scanners, to accurately measure a fully clothed body in seconds. These 3D full body scanners (produced by Intellifit Corp, with www.it-fits.info as the link underlying Intellifit Corp) have been employed worldwide and have gathered data for more than 200,000 subjects. This is the most cost-effective method for gathering large amounts of scan data accurately. We have also partnered with various National Size Surveys and have included this data in our measurement databases, giving more breadth and depth to our analysis.
AlvaForm fit mannequins represent the core body standard within a company’s supply chain. The AlvaForm Standard facilitates communication and creates alignment between all parties. The result is improved speed to market and an optimized fit approval process.
AlvaBlock Customized for you target customer – basic blocks for correct and consistent fit.
AlvaTraining Alvanon has partnered with several training authorities around the world to educate your supply chain on how to effectively implement and measure results for AlvaForm, AlvaBlock and AlvaPhoto systems. They also provide training to your designers, merchandisers, pattern makers, retail store staff on the new fit and how it relates to your customers.
Alvanon’s Latest Creation Your Personal Fit Model
News Articles on Alvanon.
More on Alvanon products and services here on previous blog posting.
Target Australia National Sizing Survey
Target Australia is partnering with Alvanon to body scan about 25,000 people from 4/30/12 to 5/30/12 to get their body measurements down to the exact millimetre. It will be recorded, processed and Target will come up with sizing that best suits the Target Australia population,”
Target managing director Dene Rogers predicts the technology will revolutionise the way we buy and fit clothes. Here is a link to the official Target Australia National Size Survey page describing the body scanning sizing project is here. Scroll down to see two official Target videos demonstrating and explaining the project.
Here is a detailed article on the Target Australia National Size Survey Project titled: Sizing up Australia – is Target’s 3D body scanner the shape of things to come? by Kate Kennedy, Lecturer, School of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT University.
This article mentions the long desired hope for development of a public domain database to inform both the industry and consumers on Australia’s size and shape. Many people within the Australia textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) industry will no doubt be viewing Target’s body-scanning project with a certain amount of envy.
I believe many people in the US (AAFA) American Apparel & Footwear Association [as well as Target US] will also be viewing Target Australia’s body-scanning project with a certain amount of envy. Development of an expanded SIZEUSA public domain database would be excellent for generic industry, consumers and educational researchers. Perhaps this is something that AAFA as an organization would consider supporting. [SizeUSA was a two-year National Sizing Survey was sponsored by clothing and textile companies, the Army, Navy and several universities. Lead researcher for the study was Dr. Cynthia Istook, a North Carolina State University textiles professor who teamed up with AlvaProducts using TC2 scanners –source] Matching brand specific items to customers is a win for customers who end up with reliable and good fit and retailers who increase sales [especially online] and reduce returns.
Link to article about the SizeUSA research: Changing the Way Apparel Companies Think about Body Shape.
Anyone that would like to submit a guest blog posting on the subject of expanding on the SizeUSA public database research project, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org