Innovative Retailer: Stitch Fix


Brought to you by Retail Insider and PCMS

Name: Stitch Fix

The Place: Well it was in the US but hurrah – it’s recently launched in the UK.

Stitch Fix: newly arrived in the UK


The Story: This company is not unique, it has competitors in the US (Trunk Club for example) and the UK (Thread for example) and yet this is still the one to beat. It’s not the oldest or probably the best stocked or the most high-end or the most anything but somehow it sits in a very sweet spot.

One word: Amazon. Whatevs.

No, really – Amazon. Still not listening.

AMAZON! Alright there is no need to shout. The whole Amazon Prime wardrobe competition thing is so totally over-exaggerated. It’s a completely different concept as I am about to explain.

Be my guest: Stitch Fix is an online styling business which has been memorably described as trading on ‘busy-ness and choice paralysis’.

Meaning? Meaning it chooses clothes for women who want to look good but really do not have the time to curate their own look because they are either working and/or being mothers and/or cooking dinners and whatever else it is that women get up to which stops them loitering in shops the whole day. It is, as so many companies are these days, all about the data and the interpretation of that data.

Who’s chief bod? One Katrina Lake. She started it in 2011 while she was doing an MBA at Harvard. She used to get fashion advice from a relative and one day she thought…

Stitch Fix founder: Katrina Lake

Hang about, I can monetise this. Exactly. Cut to today and, since going public in the autumn of 2017, Stitch Fix has reported no less than six quarters of 20+% growth.

Crikey! Second quarter earnings released earlier this year showed it pulled in $370 million revenue.

Blimey! For personalised shopping that’s pretty good going: Indeedy and some of that revenue is being pulled out and used for the UK launch which is the first time Stitch Fix has looked over the parapet of Fortress America.

And why the UK may I ask? Easy. It may sometimes be difficult to believe but Britain is one of the most tech-savvy countries on the planet. One fifth of all our purchases are made online according to the Office of National Statistics which is waaaaay more than most other countries. So, it had to be here.

OK, as a prospective new UK-based customer, what can I expect? Well first you can expect to fill out a form detailing what you like and don’t like, budgets, brands, they have algorithms that can analyse images sent from places like Pinterest and see if they have anything similar, you can tell them the bits of you that you want to emphasise or hide.

Ah, well I’ve always thought I have really nice…I don’t want to know. Stitch Fix uses a second set of serious algorithms to refine all that data and throw up a selection of possible clothing. More filtering algorithms remove styles that the consumer has already seen or received or has something about it that the client doesn’t like and voila! One curated box of clothes.

And then it gets sent to you? No, then the actual real life human being stylist person looks at it. And narrows it down to your personalised box.

A Stitch Fix box unpacked

And then it gets sent to you? Yes. With a personal note from said stylist on the items and why they are right for you. The stylists by the way (there are 4,000 of them in the US, 50+ in the UK) work from home and all have a fashion or retail background.

And all this styling work is done gratis? No. There is a £10 charge for all the preliminary work but that is redeemable against the purchase of the items. It’s a subscription service and you choose the frequency of receiving the parcel.

How many brands does Stitch Fix stock? Around 60 in the UK but more like 1,000 in the US.

Just out of interest how many people are signed up to this thing? Three million active clients. But let me tell you a really unusual thing about this company. They are not only worth their weight in gold to their customers for their ability to find the one thing in the whole Hobbs range that you want, but also to Hobbs the brand as well.

How so? Where a department store would just buy wholesale, sell, reorder or return and be done, Stitch Fix can provide deeply mined data on why items are popular or not popular, or quirks of behaviour like women of one size consistently buying a different size of a certain item because of how it feels on, or feedback on colours, you name it.

Any other super twiddly bits you want to tell me about? Hell yeah. They’ve only gone and done their own designs.

I knew it!! All that data swimming about – it would be rude not to. Three ranges are now out – Goldray, 41 Hawthorn and Market & Spruce.

Cool. And beyond the UK launch what might the future hold for Stitch Fix? Well, there is some sign that the company may be broadening out its offering. What they have traditionally been is a serendipity purchase full of, hopefully, pleasant surprises but then the client will go elsewhere for the staples like underwear.

And they want a slice of that action too? They so do. There is a new feature called ‘Extras’ whereby users can now add those bits and bobs to the usual box of five exciting new garments.

All I can say is: who would have thought something as emotionally personal as choosing your clothes would be done so efficiently by a machine that cannot even think: Don’t freak out. It’s humans and machines working in beautiful symmetry.

PCMS is a global provider of IT software and services for the retail industry. PCMS offers a full-range of integrated commerce solutions across selling touch points and also provides turnkey managed services and cloud hosting. Its client list includes John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Whole Foods, as well as Walgreens in the US and fashion brands including Prada and Ferragamo across Europe.