Macy's sizes up a high tech denim fit-finder

Macys.com has launched an online tool to restore some order to the chaos that plagues women's apparel sizing.

Tape measures are not part of the program.

Limited so far to the jeans section at macys.com, True Fit combines learning software with a profile of proper sizes already hanging in a shoppers closet to demystify the bewildering size choices apparel brands foist on women.

Thanks to what the garment industry calls vanity sizes, clothing makers produce a plethora of sizes and fits aimed at fooling women into thinking their youthful shape has held steady. The lack of uniform sizes is a big reason why women spend so long in fitting rooms trying on an average of 12 garments.

First, the industry inflated sizes so much that today's size 8 was a size 12 of a few decades ago. Even so, holdouts meant one brand's size 8 now is often another's 6. Worse, it's not uncommon to find multiple sizes within the same brand. Meantime, petites and plus-size shoppers get fewer fit choices than ever.

After five years of testing with some big brands and 400,000 registered female shoppers, True Fit asks female shoppers to spend three minutes keying in a permanent profile including the best fits and brands in their closet, shapes of key body parts and types of fit they want. Then the site lists what denim macys.com stocks that fits. To refine their profile, shoppers go back and rate how close the choices came to perfect. True Fit also remembers what a shopper returned as ill-fitting, then suggests when it's time to fess up and take it up a notch.

"Jeans are among the hardest things to fit," said Bill Adler, chief executive of Woburn, Mass.-based True Fit Corp. "We have cut the 51 percent online return rate of denim in half."

The plan is for Macy's Inc. to expand True Fit profiles to more apparel. Other retailers are lining up. In the wings: smart phone, tablet and kiosk apps so shoppers can summon True Fit inside stores.

"We learned early on that using a tape measure was a lousy idea because it's harder to do right and easy to fib," said Adler. "This ends the guessing game."

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The ways people use their smart phones already pose a threat to some long-established household gadgets. According to Big Research, a Columbus, Ohio, consumer research firm, 60 percent of smart phone users use them in lieu of alarm clocks, half rely on them for driving directions and 44 percent say the phone has replaced their digital camera. One-fourth say an app replaced their radio.

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The name of a new landlord is about to appear on signs at 16 landmark community shopping centers in the Tampa Bay area.

Brixmor Property Group has taken over two local portfolios acquired recently by Blackstone Group, Stephen Schwarzman's private investment fund. The biggest retail real estate purchase since pre-recession 2004, Brixmor runs the nation's second-largest shopping center group.

Short for "bricks and mortar," Brixmor manages 585 shopping centers including Dolphin Village in St. Pete Beach, Clearwater Mall, Southgate in New Port Richey, Lake St. Charles in Riverview, Tarpon Mall and Brooksville Square.

Macy's sizes up a high tech denim fit-finder 10/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 10:56pm]

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