Why the right size matters - Avoiding return rates in online fashion retail

Why the right size matters - Avoiding return rates in online fashion retail


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When online shopping experienced its breakthrough, there was still the assumption that it will not prevail in fashion (as it is today with food). The reasons they gave were that people wanted to try it on before buying it. But with free shipping and return everything has changed. Today, for instance in Germany about a third of the fashion sales are generated online.

The footprint of free returns

Free returns have boosted online fashion shopping. Customers order different sizes and styles, try them on and return what is not fitting. This is a huge advantage for the consumers but it is not really sustainable.

  • Between 30 and 50 % of the goods are returned. Think of the costs and the CO2 footprint.
  • The retailers have to process the returns; at the end the consumer has to cover the costs.
  • A certain % has to be disposed of.

There are no official figures how much of the returns has to be disposed of. According to the University of Bamberg about 4 % of all returned goods will be destroyed.
Reasons are for example:

  • It was already used and cannot be sold e.g. for hygienic reasons.
  • It is damaged.
  • The costs for getting it back into the supply chain (e.g. cleaning, repacking, …) are higher than the potential margins. There is the option of selling it as cut-rate b-class products via outlets or platforms but this also cannot be economical.

There is no standardized size to enable the right fit

The main reason for returns is the “No Fit”, so the clothes are not in the right fit. This is a pain point of the industry because there are no unique sizes.

  • There is a standardization (EN 13402) but the acceptance vary from country to country.
  • So there are different sizes per nation, e.g. a German 38 is a British 12, a French 40 and an Italian 42.
  • It is a complex issue because a size should consider all body dimensions like body height, chest size, etc. Mostly only, the chest size is considered.
  • There are not only the sizes but also the different cuts.
  • In addition, the producers have individual size tables.
    Some brands label smaller sizes. They flatter the customer, who usually has a size 40, when a 38 fits.
    Other brands do it the other way round, when they want to avoid bulky customers wearing their fashion.

Digitization is the key to the right size

Digitization and visual and artificial intelligence can help solving the problem of not getting the “right size”. We have discovered lots of startups providing solutions. Two of them we want to introduced here.


Show my size is an AI solution integrated in online shops. The sizing algorithm suggests the right size based on your sizing profile which is determined by parameters like body dimensions and preferred cuts. On the other side, the retailers and brand owners have to estimate the sizes of every item to enable the right fit.

They have also build up a social platform and marketplace where people recommend fashion by providing photos of themselves wearing it. You can look for people with the same sizing profile as yours and get recommendation for clothing.
Visit www.showmysize.com for more details.


Rightfit is also based on AI and integrated in the ecommerce platforms. It is scanning your body with the smartphone camera and is suggesting the right size.

Visit www.rightfit.ai for more details.

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