What Customization Means For The Future of Retail

There’s an old cliché, the shirt makes the man. In the right dress shirt, a man can appear sophisticated, successful, and even wealthy. That is especially when the shirt is perfectly tailored and designed for them. So if you pulled a homeless man off the street washed them up and put them in the same shirt, would anyone know the truth?

Chances are, they wouldn’t. With that in mind, how does the philosophy of a dress shirt apply to the future of retail? In this case, think of it as a way to present yourself in a fashion that delivers results. Today, you have hundreds of companies who specialize in different areas who are vying for your business. When you make a decision on the company you go with, who do you choose? Chances are, it isn’t the one with the best price or the highest quality. It is the one who presents themselves in a manner that is appealing and lets you believe their claim they are the best, even if it is just a perception.

Now, say you are looking for a dress shirt and you found a company that will customize the same shirt for you. They take your measurements online, tailor it and send it directly to your home for an affordable price. With this shirt, you don’t have to worry about sleeves that are too long, a collar that’s too tight or a length that is too long. It is perfectly crafted to fit you so that you look your best.

Companies like Trumaker do that. The brainchild of Michael Zhang and Mark Lovas, the company is focused on getting the best fitting shirt on your body. This is also done with information the user inputs into the system and an algorithm helps to create the best design options for the individual. The individual then chooses what they want and the plans are sent to a shirt maker who uses the pattern to create the shirts. This customization allows a person to have more of a say in the product they receive and to look polished in a one of a kind shirt.

More importantly, there is almost no overhead for the Trumaker team. They outsource the shirts to Malaysia to make and only have to produce the patterns they want created. This is similar to the approach Dell took to making computers in the 90s and early 2000s. At this time, they had a small inventory and built computers based on the specifications a customer needed. They could then charge a premium price customers were willing to pay, since the system was handcrafted to their needs.

The company also experiences another benefit. There are no leftover designs and styles that need to be reduced to cover their associated costs. That also means no patterns or sales are required and no staff necessary to handle the bulk of the transaction, since the computer is able to automate almost the entire process.

Today, more companies are going to this highly customized development concept. Where startup is inexpensive and customers get an exceptional product for a fraction of the price. In fact, most customers find they get a better deal when compared to purchasing manufactured items. The reason is the reduced overhead allows higher quality upgrades to be offered for a fraction of the cost. In the case of the shirt, buttons can be upgraded, as can fabric and even embroider for considerably less than it costs to pick up a premium shirt in a store with costly overhead.

What this means is the future of retail needs to look beyond having one size fit all stock. Instead, they should reduce their inventory and allow for on the spot customization that allows for individuality and significant savings for the company.


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Photo: The Independent