The other day, I was explaining to someone about the sizing of apparel according to one’s particular market niche and how one could go about doing some research on the matter because you have to target brands when you target your market. Oddly enough, some people never consider whether they actually want the target brand’s customers but you should ask yourself that first. Just because someone is the market leader doesn’t necessarily mean you want their customers. Anyway, we thought this discussion might be of interest to you too. Also, I suggest you review the entire chapter on grading in the Entrepreneur’s guide pp. 170-175 as a refresher for this piece.
Briefly, to optimize your selling opportunities, you already know the accuracy of your sizing (grade rules) needs to be on target with existing products in the market. But, should you numbly follow just anyone’s sizing standard? I’d say not. I think it’s better to define the leader(s) in your niche, analyze their grade and then use the summary of your research as a baseline to develop your own sizing standard. Also, you will need to analyze the quality of their grade. The leader may be the best seller for reasons unrelated to fit and it won’t serve your purpose to follow a bad example.
Again, another reason you may not want to follow the leader’s grading standards is because you may not want their customers. Or, you must be cautious in style selection (for comparative analysis) because many manufacturers will have several labels in their stable -of varying price points- and you might want to target the upper end (suggested). The lower cost labels tend to have looser fit and more casual sizing. The better price points have higher standards in fit and sizing. Their sizing standards and grade rules are more defined with less wiggle room.
It is important to select items from only one label of the manufacturer’s stable because in large companies, these are separate divisions. It is more common than not for these separate divisions to have different designers, pattern makers, blocks and grade rules. In other words, just because it is the same company, you cannot assume their products fit similarly across labels because they can be as dissimilar from each other as they are from products from a separate company.
To conduct your research you will need to buy some products produced by the market leader(s) in your niche for comparative analysis. You can always return these items later but I would not use used clothing items for comparison. Speaking of, there are rules to item selection.
First, you need to buy three consecutive sizes in one style. By one style, I mean one exact style, same style number in only one colorway. Ideally, you’d buy the median size (whatever that may be) for your niche (e.g. the “medium”) and in addition, one size larger and one size smaller. You would compare the differences in width and girth measures for all three sizes. This is how you extrapolate the base grade rule.
Now, typically in ladies apparel (for example) in sizes 4-14, the grade rule is called a “one inch grade”. Now, do not believe for an instant that actually means that there is only one inch difference between consecutive sizes because that’s not how grades work (see fig.s 5.65 and 5.66 on pg. 172). Rather, there is a one inch grade off to either side of the median size but it varies after that. The smaller sizes may only be 3/4″ and the larger ones may be 1.5″ but this is still called a “one inch grade”. Using consecutive sizes off to either side of the median size will eliminate the potentiality of confusion if you don’t understand why that is. Now, if I were going to analyze the quality of a company’s grade, I’d compare it across all sizes with particular emphasis on either end of the sizing spectrum. If the smaller sizes were graded at only 3/4″ etc, I would be very jolly indeed.
Tomorrow I’ll continue this discussion with quality analysis as it relates to sizing across colorways and related or similar styles (apparently from the same block).