COMsumers

Unbound Spiral: The 30 Second Shopper

November 30, 2002 11:15 AM

How can one consumer reject jean stores and auto offerings in less than 30 seconds? Should jeans be an easy purchase? What’s the relationship between carmakers and jeans? Are they both using the same sizing charts, and am I apparently off the charts? Do these industries need to rethink big and tall? See “more” below for gory details.

For me just a recent reinforcement of why I enjoy, custom clothing from shirts and pants, to suits, and shoes. Unfortunately, it’s expensive and indulgent though I wish it were everyday. At times it involves a very personal service experience --- great tailors make you feel wonderful. Unfortunately, mass customization is still just round the corner. However, after my latest shopping experience I came home, and logged on… searching Google for custom jeans. I knew they were there; next time one of them will get my business.

Some retail experiments (e.g. Land’s End) have made progress with full body scans. There are myriad of issues surrounding them. Starting with customers (your measures) and including, standards, ownership, portability, privacy, etc. There are clear incentives for clothing retailers and consumers to get to into mass customization. In clothing, it makes sense to enable consumers to become part of the production process. I suggested this in COMsumers too.

Still I must assume it will take longer for me to customize the sizing of my latest car --- add 4 inches to the front foot well and raise the roofline at a price I can afford. Yet clearly not every store or auto manufacturer needs a scanning system. For ultimately a scan is a scan. Can someone send my scan though every car? What's the most comfortable car ever built for me? Real-time access and matching is the key.

The combination of scans with smart labels appearing RFID tags make the convergence even more attractive. For my 30 seconds, will be judged by a complete list of inventory on hand. Secret shopper can then also work for me… letting me know where there are clothes and inventories that work. Hmmm could be an attractive world. …. A world for smart mobbing clothing.

Is there a moral here? Not sure. Is there a message? Partly! Is there a need to change? Definitely! Auto manufacturers aren't building in enough flexibility and thus failing on comfort (By the way is there an auto brand that owns comfort anymore?). While Mass Retailers / clothing suppliers, are simply failing to help me dress! Is the business of dressing a lost art? I know my son is not being sold on "dressing". This may hurt the industry in the future.

Notes:

Last week the SF Auto Show I found I don't fit in more new cars than I can ever remember. I frequent auto shows every few years (even made Geneva once) when a new generation of cars emerge. Now the thing is… I am a car nut, run many classics, played with many an engine, raced a few laps and read the mags. Yet shopping for cars is one of the things I hate. Most may immediately think “salesmen” but it is not that. My approach to shopping for a car involves 10 seconds with the car. It’s simply decided. DO I FIT OR NOT? So for me an Auto Show provides a real bonus. It can also dash dreams and be really depressing. I can look at cars for years and know I will never desire ownership.

This time my list of must sit-in’s included Jaguar’s S, new Infiniti G35, Nissan 350Z, Audi A6, Porsche Boxster, Range Rover, etc. There were many more. Other than the Range Rover (I’m hooked), none of these cars fit! Two enormous problem areas trace to room between the steering wheel and center console and the headroom front windshield roofline. If you can’t steer or see out, then the car simply won’t work. This fit issue is not limited to just these cars and I am not a freak… While height at 6’5” is pushing boundaries, weight certainly isn’t. Plus for the record I drive an old ’90 911C2, and have even owned an original Mini Cooper S. So I’m pretty flexible when it comes to flexing my frame. The Boxster was particularly disappointing. A Porsche NUT excluded from a future upgrade by engineering and design! At least size 12 boots don't auto exclude you anymore (remember old Lotus's).

Leaving the auto show I continued in search of jeans. My son 13 is starting to get the picture about shopping. He’s fearful too now for the future. A few weeks ago he needed new pants. He growing fast and at 5”9” he’s still an easy fit. I know he is starting to wonder --- for how much longer. I won’t try and explore his aversion to jeans. However he learnt a couple of weeks ago that Macy’s and Nordstrom’s don’t stock 36” inseams. So I had reconciled myself to going into SF. Diesel was my target. My last three sets of jeans came from there. So I was shocked when they said 34” inseam is now the longest we make! I was in the store for less than 30 seconds. Another time wasting stop. While walking up to the Levi’s store we stopped in Banana Republic. “Do you stock any pants (note the ANY) with a 36” inseam?” “No!” Ok. Thanks I’m out of here.

Made it to Levis --- horrible thumping music, they had a few jeans, e.g. 501’s 550’s, 505’s in my size. Limited colors, limited selection. I did get new jeans! They do have a custom order opportunity in the store. However it was confusing, and the line meant I wasn’t waiting. Will check it out online. Upstairs at no time did the salesperson try to up sell me to custom product. In fact the jeans were discounted – on sale. After the experience I’m afraid Levi’s remains a last resort shop. For the record... I didn't see any other 13 year old boys purchasing there either.