• The first national sizing survey in the UK since 2001 is getting underway in a bid to get truly accurate British adult clothes sizing. 
  • Six major UK retailers will collect definitive sizing and shape data from their customers using new  body volume technology.
  • The survey hopes to address the huge amount of clothing returned due to incorrect fit and sizing.
The survey will allow clothing retailers to use the data to improve sizing garment specification

The survey will allow clothing retailers to use the data to improve sizing garment specification

Six major British retailers including Tesco, New Look, River Island and Asos have signed up to a new nationwide sizing survey that aims to provide data to help produce better-fitting clothes – and tackle the surge in online returns.

Managed by Select Research and backed by Innovate UK, the ShapeGB survey is being undertaken for the first time in 17 years, and will create a nationally representative sample of around 30,000 adult men and women.

It also uses new body volume technology originally developed in healthcare for the Body Volume Indicator (BVI), which is a new and more modern enhancement to the Body Mass Index (BMI).

Over 100 measurements will be collected from each person taking part, measuring the weight distribution of seven areas of the body – both arms, both legs, chest, pelvis and the abdomen in 3D, so it can similarly capture body volumes for retail clothing. The goal is to collect data from across the nation to help better understand people who have the same clothing size but are different body shapes.

Over 3m body measurements on body shape and sizing are expected to be generated from the project, allowing clothing retailers to use the data to improve sizing garment specification.

The survey is open to everyone over 18 who has access to an iOS device. The app takes two photographs and contains a short questionnaire.

The body volume software only uses the body outlines anonymously and then privately and securely creates 3D scientific data for use in sizing and body shape design by retailers and clothing designers. The images are always deleted.

Richard Barnes, CEO and founder of Select Research, says the project will help with the problems the industry has with sizing by measuring and including body shape as an integral part of the process.

"Since we did the last national sizing survey in 2001, we have changed due to natural evolution and lifestyle choices, but we don't know how or by how much, so we need to understand body shape better.

"There is also a lack of consistency in sizing across different clothing brands and the aim of ShapeGB is to use body volume as a new way of measuring body shape to help us find better ways of resolving this for the customer.

"For the first time, using an app, we can now measure body shape on a huge scale which means we can look at new ways of integrating that into the manufacturing process."

Select Research were data controllers on Size UK – the last adult national sizing survey in 2001, when 11,000 men and women were measured in 12 locations. The technology used then measured volunteers in a static 3D scanner and so they had to attend in person, meaning a lot of people across the country were left out.

Tesco clothing brand F&F was one of the companies that worked with Select Research on the last survey.

Technical director, Alan Wragg, says: "The body shape data they produced helped us better define sizing from ages 4-17, which resulted in a significant decrease in returns. The next stage is now on adult clothes sizing and we hope the whole nation can take part to try and solve a problem that affects almost everyone in some way. Together with other retailers we will be contacting our customers to take part in ShapeGB."

The results will be available after the survey has been completed for more general and industry use. The Shape GB app will be available on iOS until the 30,000 target has been reached so there is a uniform data collection method for the initial sample. It will then be released on Android to measure the rest of the nation. 

Research released earlier this week revealed shoppers in the UK are returning more than GBP7.044bn (US$9.31bn) of purchases every year – with fashion retailers hit hardest: Soaring clothing returns blamed on inconsistent sizing.