PSFK Retail Conference Preview: How Bonobos Is Enabling A True ‘Fit For Every Man’ With Extended Sizing And Price Parity

PSFK Retail Conference Preview: How Bonobos Is Enabling A True ‘Fit For Every Man’ With Extended Sizing And Price Parity
Fashion & Apparel

Before speaking at PSFK's Future of Retail 2019 Conference on January 16, Bonobos co-president, Brad Andrews, explains how the brand is distinguishing itself in the premium apparel space by focusing on focusing on proper fits at every size, all while maintaining price parity

PSFK
  • 30 november 2018

While many apparel brands are reluctant to spend the resources required to enable optimal fits in extended size ranges, Bonobos remains dedicated to its slogan, “Fit for every man,” and is accordingly focusing its efforts on the necessary research and alterations to make proper-fitting sizes, not just larger cuts.

The premium men’s apparel brand takes its commitment to customer needs seriously, gathering insights and feedback regarding common customer pain points with merchandise as well as store experience. Ahead of the Future of Retail 2019 Conference this January, PSFK interviewed Bonobos co-president Brad Andrews to discuss the lengths the brand has gone to in maintaining its standard of proper-fitting clothing for all men, as well as delivering in-synch online and in-store shopping that reflects the retailer’s focus on one-on-one, tailored experiences.

PSFK:  Tell us about the consumer trends that are driving your business.

Brad: One of the overarching trends that we’ve seen over the past couple of years is focus on fit, and an extension of fit for us has been fabrication. We’ve seen strong continued growth and success of stretch fabrications across categories. We were one of the earliest men’s brands to see that trend coming a few years ago.

We went big on that across our pants category, suiting categories, blazers, etc. We’re seeing that continue to perform really well. Guys understand stretch, understand the benefits of it, which is different from how the men’s apparel space was a few years back.

The second trend is performance fabrication. What used to be relegated to athletic wear is now something that’s moved its way into sportswear. Programs for us, like the Tech Chino, Tech Blazer, the performance casual shirt that we offer, these are fabrications that guys wear day‑to‑day that have performance attributes, such as moisture‑wicking and temperature control.

You recently launched a line of extended sizing. Can you explain why the menswear industry has fallen woefully short when it comes to offering size inclusivity?

We started researching this space last year, and it is an underserved market. A lot of brands use extended sizes as a bit of an afterthought. We explored that in two tangible ways.

One is as we surveyed the landscape—there was a lack of stylish options. You had to hunt and peck to find just even basics in those extended sizes. Two, as we studied the product as a brand committed to better‑fitting clothes, there wasn’t much attention paid to fit.

A lot of the product offering was optimized for what I’d call body coverage, as opposed to fitting well. We felt that that was our opportunity to bring a differentiated product to this market, and better serve that customer.

It wasn’t just our own observations, I’d say. We also did a lot of customer research, interviewed guys, did travel to different cities. The team and I went to stores and did shop‑alongs with guys to understand pain points and what they look for. We also conducted extensive fit research with customers. We used that as a jumping-off point to build the product assortment.

What are some of the common pain points that you uncovered?

As we started to go through the product, we noticed neglect regarding fit. We’d see, as the sizes were graded off, and in the larger sizes, there was not a lot of attention paid to proportion.

You’d see that in the larger sizes from some other brands. It would fit across the chest and the shoulder, but then the cuffs would be too big. You could see that they had graded the cuff size in proportion with the rest of the body, which doesn’t tend to be the case with guys.

We saw things like customers were unable to button the top button of the shirt. When we were building our shirts, we made sure to lower the neck drop so that a larger guy could button the top button, and still be comfortable.

We noticed there was a lot of excess fabric in the sleeve, which makes sense. If you have a larger armhole opening, you have a bigger sleeve. We constructed our sleeves to be two‑piece to eliminate some of the twisting that we saw and billowing fabric.

What the two‑piece does is the seam actually follows the natural curve of your arm, so it’s creates a better‑fitting sleeve. We also noticed a lot of excess fabric in the back, a common pain point. As these shirts were scaled up, the designers were not thinking about the proportion of how to distribute the extra fabric.

We shifted it more toward the front, and added darts to the back of our shirt to eliminate some of the extra fabric. In the pants fit, we paid a lot of attention to pitch, accommodating a larger midsection with a lower front. In suiting pants, we added a hidden elastic, because we did notice there was some pulling and tension at the waistband for these guys.

We wanted to accommodate for that, and give them a little bit more range of motion. We noticed in suiting jackets that there was a lot of what you call breaking in the lapel, where you get a sharp angle in the lapel. It didn’t follow the shape of their chest. It wasn’t a smooth, round lapel, so we added a dart to allow for motion.

It was really the devil was in the details in terms of the customer pain points on fit. In terms of the assortment, it was important for us to make sure with this initial collection that we had an element of fashion, that we had colorful chinos, that we had some of our best printed shirts represented.

There was a lack of stylish fashion options in this space, and we heard that from the customers.

You just launched on September 10, but do you have a sense of how the consumer response has been so far?

We’ve seen a lot of strong, positive engagement, particularly in our social channels and our Instagram stories. We’ve heard some good initial customer feedback through our Guideshops and through our customer service teams.

There’s a lot of appetite for this type of assortment. Given our stance as a brand that’s known for better‑fitting clothes, there’s been a positive reaction from folks that we’re finally doing this, and extending our size range.

It’s only been a few days of selling, but we’re really excited about the results so far.

Why do you think that premium brands tend to be behind the curve in offering more inclusive sizing?

Again, it becomes an afterthought. It’s also technically hard. Some of those very specific technical points that that I mentioned earlier are hard to do well. It is a separate endeavor.

Previously, for instance, in pants, we’d offer only up to size 40 waist. Once you get above a size 40 waist, you have different considerations, in terms of proportions. It is a different endeavor in terms of building out the fit and technically executing the product.

For a lot of brands, it’s just hard to do. Where brands fall short is that they try to extend what they’re already doing. They’re not actually focusing in on what that customer needs, and thinking about how to make it actually fit, as opposed to just offering the size.

This extended sizing is not part of a special line, but actually includes some of your best sellers, like the beloved Riviera shirts. Why are you making it part of your regular line, versus creating a special plus-size line, like some other retailers?

We put a stake in the ground this year about being a brand that’s about inclusivity and diversity. To try to separate the experience didn’t make sense for us a brand. We wanted to offer the best of what we offer to all guys or, at least, take a step in that direction.

Obviously, we’re not fully there, but with this extended size launch, we wanted to get guys who should be our customers into the brand, who were previously excluded. We didn’t want to treat this as a separate offering or separate collection. We wanted it to be truly an extension of what we do.

Most brands also mark up the price for extended sizing, but you establish price parity. 

That was a core brand belief for us, that the extended sizes should be priced in-line with our assortment. As a brand whose ethos is, “Fit for every man,” we didn’t want to assign different price points depending on what your fit is.

We wanted it to be one price point for the good. We thought that was an opportunity to differentiate as well.

Besides size inclusivity, are there any other areas where you think the premium men’s apparel industry is missing the mark, and not serving its consumers?

There’s not a lot of attention paid to body diversity and body inclusivity. You see it in the imagery of some other brands that speak a language of one‑size‑fits‑all, or, “We’re going to tell you what’s cool.” “This is how you should look.”

That’s where brands are falling short. Now more than ever, brands need to listen to their customer. They need to be a reflection of their customer. That’s what we’re striving to do. That’s where we’re trying to get better as a brand in the marketing assets we put out, in the story that we tell and in the product that we offer finally.

How does extended sizing align with your brand’s omnichannel distribution goals?

Again, our goal as a brand this year was to live by our ethos of, “Fit for every man.” We also incorporated that into our omnichannel strategy, especially in delivering great one‑on‑one in-store experiences where men could try on the clothes.

Consumers tend to be cast aside by other brands and store associates with lines like, “Oh, that’s not going to fit you. Oh, we don’t have that size.”

We are using this missed opportunity to deliver an experience that’s personal and comfortable for the guy. Additionally, from a business model standpoint, being a digitally native brand, and being an e‑commerce‑driven brand, we’re able to aggregate demand.

We’re not stocking stores with stacks of inventory by size. We’re actually able to serve both our Guideshops and our e‑commerce through one inventory, which gives us a competitive advantage, and allows us to offer an extended size range.

The extended size range is offered in‑store as well as online?

That’s right. We have representation of the extended sizes in our stores, as well in try‑ons. Customers can shop in our stores and online.

Was an important aspect for this launch to include it in stores? 

Again, it goes back to our brick-and-mortar model, which is our Guideshop model—predicated on being a reflection of our site, where there’s representative samples of everything we offer as well as try‑ons.

Guys can get fitted, get style advice and have a great one‑on‑one experience through our e‑commerce. It was important for us to have that represented in the store, too. Additionally, we know for guys who fall within this extended size range, there is a lot of trial and error. Trying on is important, and we wanted to make sure they had the option to do so in‑store if they lived in a Guideshop region.

Could you speak a little about the way you’re trying to evolve the stores towards the next generation of online‑offline hybrid?

Bonobos was the pioneer of the online‑to‑offline movement back in 2009 when we launched our Guideshops. The experience is one‑on‑one with a guide who’s well‑trained in the product assortment, well‑trained in fit, can give advice and can walk through the entire assortment.

It’s what I consider a best‑in‑class service experience in retail. Our push is to continue to evolve from there. We’re thinking through additional services we could offer in the store, how to use technology to enable our guides to deliver a better customer experience.

We’ll look forward to seeing what Bonobos does next.

Bonobos

For more inspiring insights from pioneers like Brad who are transforming the retail experience, come see him and an entire panel of speakers from today’s most innovative brands at PSFK’s annual Future of Retail 2019 Conference, tickets available now.

While many apparel brands are reluctant to spend the resources required to enable optimal fits in extended size ranges, Bonobos remains dedicated to its slogan, “Fit for every man,” and is accordingly focusing its efforts on the necessary research and alterations to make proper-fitting sizes, not just larger cuts.

+analysis
+bonobos
+Brad Andrews
+fashion & apparel
+Features
+future of retail 2019
+Interview
+Menswear
+merchandising & curation
+Public
+retail
+Shopper education & assistance
+store experience & design

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