According to a recent industry study, 20%+ of all online footwear orders are returned with 68% of them attributed to poor fit. It is estimated that fit issues are costing the footwear and apparel industry $62.4 billion annually. Inconsistent and poor fitting product negatively impacts brand image, creates high return rates, higher operational costs and erodes margins.
Poor fit is the number one reason customers do not purchase a product. Online return rates due to fit are around 70%. As footwear specialists we know that this is actually attributed to either incorrect sizing, poor construction, poor material selection and/or a poorly designed last. In our industry, inconsistent sizing and fit is a massive issue which is responsible for the majority of all returns. As online shopping continues to grow, 79% of customers are demanding free shipping and returns. Improving and developing a consistent fit is an opportunity for most brands.
The right fit starts with the foundation of footwear, the last. Last design is highly complex and is sadly becoming a lost art in the footwear industry. We have identified and solved fit issues for many top brands and have put together a quick last guide which you can find here.
How many different lasts is your footwear built on? Most brands have no idea because they have so many. If fit problems are persisting consider the number of lasts your brand uses. Are they all necessary? By simply limiting your lasts to three or five and selecting appropriate lasts for the application you can significantly reduce fit issues. This is where discipline and consistency is essential.
Knowing material characteristics is essential to achieving great fit. Various materials interact differently over time and special care must be taken in development and manufacturing. For example, leather needs to be warmed and dampened when lasting to mold to the last. Otherwise, over time leather will want to return to its flat shape. Woven uppers tend to pinch down the toe, reducing toe box, thus causing you to go half size bigger. Furthermore, special attention must be taken when using engineered mesh in order to create a dynamic fit. All too often these new mesh materials have too much stretch in areas that need to be rigid.
Shoes with little to no adjustability can create serious fit issues. Everyone’s foot is slightly different and regardless of how great your last is, adjustability is essential. Our advice is to avoid dead fit product. On the other end of the spectrum, too large of an eyestay with limited tongue padding and thin laces can cause laces to bite.
As online sales continue to grow, there will be a focus on improving efficiency to drive up margins. Reducing the likelihood of returns by providing products that are true to fit, will be an important aspect . Perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of our industry is the lack of standard sizing and feel that there is an opportunity to create standardization. We hope this serves as a general guide when addressing fit issues but if further assistance is needed feel free to reach out. We are always here to help.
Brent James, founder and CEO at Concept 21.
In the late 70’s Brent helped initiate Nike’s wear test program. Since then he has worked with over 40 footwear brands and has helped many of them overcome fit issues.
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