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Britain’s Clothes Don’t Fit

Shopping in the U.K. is a big deal, especially with the forthcoming holiday season—and it’s only expected to get bigger.

This year, Brits will spend 53.5 billion pounds (about $81.4 billion) on clothes, up from 51.5 billion pounds ($78.3 billion) in 2014. Moreover, the clothing retail market is estimated to grow by 20 percent, up to 64 billion pounds ($97.3 billion) by 2020.

The problem is people aren’t satisfied with what they’re buying.

A recent report by London-based market research firm Mintel found that many British consumers are dissatisfied with the way their clothes fit. Thirty-eight percent of all respondents said it is difficult to find clothes that fit properly. The issue is more visible in womenswear, with 49 percent of women age 16 to 44 reporting problems.

The biggest concern has to do with product availability. In 2014, 7 percent of all U.K. shoppers were dissatisfied with the availability of certain garments in their size; amongst those, 16 to 24-year-olds experienced this slightly more, with 9 percent claiming dissatisfaction.

Another issue is the difference in sizes between retailers.

Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel, said, “There are currently huge variances between retailers, with a size 12 (equivalent to size 10 in the U.S.) for example fitting differently depending which retailer or brand it is purchased from, meaning customers cannot automatically know whether a garment will fit them without trying it on.”

The predicament is prevalent both in stores and online.

Sixty-five percent of people in the U.K. buy clothes online and 37 percent of them returned the clothes. According to 43 percent of returnees, the reason was that they didn’t fit well.

In response to the fit issue, consumers have various responses.

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One-third of all consumers say that they usually address the fit issue themselves by making alterations to the clothes. Most Brits, however, prefer to avoid this step and are open to technological solutions.

Forty-five percent of respondents said they would happily accept a virtual fitting solution that compares the measurements of a garment they already own with something they would like to buy, thus assuring a proper fit. The same number expressed interest in a similar hypothetical service that would take their measurements and find retailers and brands that accommodate their specific shape.

Although 38 percent of consumers said they do not completely know which clothes best suit their shape, 55 percent claim that they would spend more money on clothes if they fit well and were flattering.

Sender said retailers should pay attention to this.

“The fact that consumers are willing to spend more on clothes that flatter them highlights just how important it is for retailers to focus on designing clothes that are cut to fit well and use the correct fabric to improve the way a garment falls,” she said, adding, “Retailers can also do more to help shoppers find the correct fitting clothes and there is scope to have staff with additional training in tailoring skills on hand in changing rooms that know how to measure a customer and advise them on what fits.”

In addition, 76 percent of U.K. consumers said they would like to see a better size standardization across clothing retailers or brands and 63 percent would like more stores to offer a wider range of sizes.