Hanesbrands new Smart Sizes system a smart move according to Professor Michael Lord

7.11.2010 Article, Faculty News, Marketing, Retail

Adjusting the Bra Hanesbrands' new Smart Sizes system intends to simplify process of buying a comfortable bra
Originally Posted on Sunday, July 11, 2010 | By Fran Daniel
Reposted from The Winston-Salem Journal

CUSTOMER FRIENDLY: A GAME CHANGER

Hanesbrands Inc. is trying to reshape traditional bra fitting using just five sizes.

The apparel company recently rolled out its proprietary "shape-to-fit" bra technology under its Hanes and Barely There brands.

The new system is called Smart Sizes. It uses a construction in bras that molds to the shape of the wearer.

With the technology, there are five bra sizes — extra small through extra large — instead of the 16 traditional cup-and-band sizes from 30A through 42C that represent 58 percent of the bras sold in the country.

The aim of the new system, the company said, is to provide easier shopping, a custom fit and comfort for consumers.

"We've done research over and over again that always says women don't like to shop for bras," said Christy Respess Jones, the vice president and general manager of intimate apparel for Hanesbrands.

She said that recent company studies found that 65 percent of women say that it is hard for them to find the right bra.

"That was the top-ranked most frustrating item," she said.

She also said that reducing the number of bra sizes helps retailers display more bras in each size and carry more colors per size to simplify the shopping experience for their customers.

Matt Hall, a spokesman for Hanesbrands, said that the technology is a big deal for the company, which also sells T-shirts, panties, men's and children's underwear, socks, hosiery, casualwear and activewear.

Hanesbrands declined to disclose what revenues it expects from sales of Hanes and Barely There bras that have this technology, but the company expects department stores and mass merchandisers to sell more than $50 million worth of them a year, Hall said.

The company said it will still use the traditional alpha-numeric sizing for some of its Hanes and Barely There lines, but wants to give women new choices.

There are seven styles of Barely There bras that use this technology, bringing the total for that line to 18.

"That's a big addition to the line and branding of the line," Hall said.

The Hanes line has five styles that use the technology, bringing its total number of styles to 19.

Hanesbrands' research-and-development employees developed the Smart Sizes bra system after several years of work in product and development. A series of flexible and floating frames are used in the construction of the bras, allowing them to mold to the shapes of the wearer. The system works with wire-free bras and underwire styles.

Hall said that a typical bra stretches in just two directions — north and south or east and west. But the Smart Sizes system allows flexibility in four directions at the same time.

Sandy Waitz, the vice president of design, innerwear, for Hanesbrands said that this shape-to-fit technology gives Hanesbrands a unique position in the marketplace.

"It really revolutionizes the shopping experience for the average-figured consumer," Waitz said.

She expects Hanesbrands to grow this new system with new innovations based on the company's own research and consumer response to Smart Sizes.

"It's been fabulous feedback," Waitz said. "Our sales are showing that consumers are responding incredibly positively to the shopping experience and to the garments themselves."

Mike Lord, a professor of management at Wake Forest University, said that the way to build a company like Hanesbrands is through a lot of small and medium size innovations. He said that something as simple as removing a tag on apparel, as was the case with Hanesbrands' tagless T-shirt, for example, can mean big increases in sales for the apparel company.

"This is even more revolutionary, so to speak," he said of Smart Sizes.

Lord believes that the new technology will make shopping easier for consumers, and reduce the number of sizes and varieties of bras that retailers have to handle. He also said that it will help with production at Hanesbrands.

"They will have to make fewer varieties in sizes," he said. "So if they are replacing 16 traditional sizes with five, that is much more efficient in terms of production and they have to manage a lot less inventory."

The real question mark is if shoppers will like and buy the new bras.

"Ultimately if that doesn't work than it doesn't matter how much the retailers or Hanesbrands likes it," Lord said. "But I think that there's a good chance that it will be successful because they have tested this and people are trending toward simpler, easier choices of all kinds, across a lot of consumer categories."