The answer may seem obvious and you might even be wondering why I'm writing a blog post on this. But in honesty, choosing the right size can make or break the success of a range and isn't a decision that should be taken lightly. When I'm providing technical services for my clients, one of the questions I ask them is 'what size range are you making' and far too many of them answer 'whatever is common', or something along those lines, which is why I'm writing this post. I hope to explain why the term 'common' or 'most popular' are redundant and why it's up to you as the brand owner to establish what your customer's needs are. I'll also talk about things that can help you when choosing a range and points you should consider.
Why can't I make it in the 'common sizes'
The trouble is when people ask me this is, what is a common size? Often when I'm doing a tech pack I'm simply translating their designs into a technical format, with stitch details, trims and the like, so I don't actually know much about the customer profile when I do this kind of work. What is considered to be a common size for one area of the market, or world, may be a bad seller in other areas. Let's take an example; I used to work for a mid-level retailer aimed at reasonably wealthy families in England. Our bestselling size in Womenswear was a 16. Another company I worked for was a high end fashion label in Australia, their bestselling size was an 8 and we could barely shift size 14, so we didn't make a 16. If the Australian brand had gone with what was a 'common' size range, they would have been left with a large amount of size 16's they wouldn't be able to sell, resulting in left over stock that they've made a loss on. So you see, you really have to define your customer and their needs in order to make a good decision.
How can I determine my size range?
There's a number of key factors to consider when choosing a size range. I'd strongly encourage you doing as much market research as possible with your target customers as this will make the process a lot easier.
- If you've already sold products before for the same brand, the sales data is your best friend. Ask yourself, what sizes were left over when you went into sale? Did some sizes have a better sell through percentage than others?
- What's happening in the industry? Is there a gap in the market for a particular style/sizing, for example activewear for tall people or sleepwear for plus size?
- What is your customer saying? Engage with them on social media or in stores, what size are they looking for, do you stock it, has it sold out?
- What are your competitors doing? When I say this I mean specific competitors, i.e. they sell in the same market as you. For example eveningwear in the US or sportswear in India (which, incidentally, is booming at the moment).
What is a size break?
A size break is the percentage of the order that is allocated to each size, or the size ratio. So for example, you might place an order of 500 units and order 50 XS 200 S and 250 M, this is the size break. A factory will need to know this when you place your confirmed order, as the size break determines the amount of fabric that is required. Of course, the bigger the garments the more fabric is needed, so if you're looking to make plus size garments tell the factory as soon as you can as there may be a surcharge. Also keep in mind that if you're placing small orders a factory my limit you on the number of sizes you can order, as it is extra work for them to create each size and they may not be willing to cover the cost of that if they're not making may items for you.
As with choosing a size break, there is a lot to be taken into account. Use the 4 guidelines I mentioned earlier to help and keep a close eye on sales. This is why I always recommend that new brands start very small, in order to establish the demand and order the correct sizes.
What are size outs?
You may not of heard the term before, but I'm sure that at some point everyone has come across size outs. When you go into store, or shop online and your size is no longer available, this is a 'size out'. A size out is when the retailer has ordered the wrong size break and has sold out of the popular sizes, while other sizes are still available. This can create problems especially in physical stores, as obviously they still need to display the stock to sell it, but it causes lost sales and disappointment when customers find out their size is no longer available. Good communication with your customers and close monitoring of sales data can help you to avoid this situation and remember that your customer base can evolve over time, so don't be afraid to make changes, or at least do some trials if need be.
I hope this post has given you some answers and things to consider. If it's left you feeling confused, or you're not sure of some of the terminology please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me here and I'll see what I can do.
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