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THE CUTTING EDGE: Focus on E-Business

Seeking a Measure of Success

Lands' End is teaming with Image Twin on body-scanning kiosks that will size up consumers and help them buy clothes online that fit their body type.

October 19, 2000|ANNE D'INNOCENZIO | ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK — Imagine being blinded by pure white light that lingers over your body for 12 long seconds.

No, it's not an alien encounter but rather a kiosk outfitted with new body-scanning technology, created by Cary, N.C.-based Image Twin Inc., that will make anyone's fitting room and measuring tape look archaic.

Catalog giant Lands' End, which was the first to introduce a virtual model on its Web site two years ago, has teamed up with Image Twin to help promote the technology, which is designed to help consumers choose clothes on the Web that fit their body type.

Image Twin's plan is to develop 50 body-scanning kiosks in malls and at other retailers within the next year, according to Chairman C. Cammack Morton. Data taken from the scans will be stored on password-protected sites on the Web and can be used by consumers to help make purchases at affiliated companies.

The technology also has broader implications, Morton added: It could standardize sizing in the apparel industry, a problematic issue because a size 8 at one store isn't necessarily a size 8 at another.

"Consumers are very interested in fit. This is just the next step," said Bill Bass, senior vice president of e-commerce and international at the Dodgeville, Wis.-based Lands' End.

To promote the new technology, Lands' End has embarked on a two-month, 14-city promotional tour to get people accustomed to the idea. On Monday, the 48-foot promotional trailer was parked at the World Trade Center, inviting people off the street to strip off their clothes, put on tight-fitting athletic wear and get scanned.

"This definitely has piqued my interest," said Grace Garinger, 36, of Montvale, N.J. "I used to buy clothes online but then I stopped. They never fit, and I always had to return them. Now, I may just return."

Body scanning isn't a new concept. Levi Strauss has operated a body-scanning kiosk to customize jeans in its San Francisco store, and Nike offered foot scanning in its Niketown store in New York, scrapping it after one year. The concept, however, never took off because of the limited technology available, Morton said.

The information was stored in the retailers' individual computers, and in order to make another purchase for a customized item, customers had to repeat the body-scanning process, he said.

Morton said his firm perfected technology a couple of months ago that enables the information about the consumer to be stored in a secure database on the Internet.

Along with Lands' End, Image Twin has also signed up Brooks Bros., which will be installing a body-scanning kiosk early next year at its store on Madison Avenue, according to Gerri Corrigan, director of public relations at the menswear store.

Brooks Bros. will also be mass customizing suits and shirts--at no extra charge--based on the computer-generated patterns.

The move to commercialize body scanning should be a big plus for online commerce, said Evie Black Dykema, a senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based consultants Forrester Research.

"The inability to . . . try on clothes or feel them is the biggest obstacle for consumers in buying apparel," she said.

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