Trying It On

by Harry Sheff

New technologies revolutionize the way retailers interact with their clientele.

Three technology firms are helping retailers adapt to the changing ways consumers shop for apparel. Two of them, Fits.Me and Virtual Closet, allow shoppers to “try on” clothes without any effort at all. First Insight helps retailers pick consumers’ brains for trend preferences and price flexibility. All three could help revolutionize the way retailers interact with their customers.

Virtual Closet

The Virtual Closet is an idea whose time has come. Picture going into a store, picking up a clothing item, scanning the bar code, and seeing that piece of clothing on a digital image of you! The retailer would have a database of vendor images linked to the store’s item file; the customer would be able to view the item’s availability and fit (size/style/model) all in one click. Thus, customers would be able to select, browse, and try on clothing through the use of a camera and touch screen. Stores participating in the Virtual Clothing Experience will significantly reduce lost sales, inventory shrinkage (due to theft, damages, misplacement, etc), and dressing room maintenance.

Another component to this concept is virtual mannequins: Screens around the store would display images of mannequins wearing the latest fashions. In this way, new fashion can be displayed (and changed frequently) without having to buy, maintain, dress, or store mannequins. All this can be done from remote locations at a fraction of the cost of real mannequins. —KAG

For more info, contact Noe Lopez or Brad Cornell:

First Insight

In the old days, says First Insight CEO and founder Greg Petro, a merchant could show pictures or samples to customers and get an idea of what they wanted, what they would buy. This is essentially what First Insight does online: consumers would find a “game” on a retailer’s website that takes them through some examples of merchandise, say, shoes or jeans. The game can be configured in a variety of ways, with the end result being insight into what the customer would pay, which trends are hitting too soon or too late, and which brands resonate right now.

Petro’s company, First Insight, launched about five years ago, born from an idea he had when he took a break from his department store career (Kaufmann’s, Lazarus, Proffit’s) to get an MBA. “It was really about the idea of how you talk to your customers. When I started in department stores in 1985, we had 12 stores—you knew the market and understood your customers,” Petro recalled. Twenty years later, with apparel chains operating tens and hundreds of doors, the equation has changed. “The efficiencies were gained in the market, but the intimacy was lost.”

The possibilities are obvious for major department stores, buying offices and trend forecasters. The tool can be linked to social networks, sent out via e-mail or installed on websites. “We’ve used it for logos, all the way through to product design and determinations of products and at various levels of impact to the business ,from tactical to strategic,” says Petro. —HS

For more information, visit


Fits.Me, a web start-up from Estonia, is using robotic mannequins to help guys try shirts on, virtually, online. “It shows the customer what the garment’s going to look like on,” explains Ben Mosher, Fits.Me’s U.S. salesman. “It takes away the doubt: ‘now I know my size.’”

When you visit a web retailer who uses this technology, you enter your measurements (that means you must know them or take them yourself) and then “try on” different sizes of a garment, say, a shirt. You’ll see an image of exactly how someone with your measurements would fill out that particular size of shirt.

Here’s how it works from the retailer side: A retailer would send their range of sizes in a given shirt to Estonia (turn-around is about 2-3 weeks) where the lab takes about 1,500 separate photos of each garment in the full range of mannequin sizes. The mannequin torso has moveable plates that expand and contract to mimic different body types and sizes. Most of the set-up is free—Fits.Me makes their money per customer visit online (probably a range of 5 to 15 cents per visit), with multiple “try-ons” allowed per visit.

The service has launched at, a U.K. dress shirt firm. Or visit to see how it works. —HS