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Hot Start-Ups: Under 5’10 is resizing clothing for men

The saying “invention is the mother of necessity” couldn’t be more fitting for online start-up Under 5’10.

Founded in May 2018, the Cedarhurst, N.Y.-based company was created to alleviate the frustration shorter men often feel when shopping for apparel. In fact, it was company founder Elie Robinson’s very own personal frustration that brought the concept to life.

“The average male height in the U.S. is 5’10, and mass manufacturers cut clothing around this average male height,” Robinson told Chain Store Age. “And who can blame them — they want to hit the broadest audience possible. While e-commerce takes away some of this stigma for shorter male shoppers, I knew there had to be a better way to build confidence for consumers under 5’10.”

Robinson brought some 20 years of executive experience in developing and managing start-ups to his quest. After soliciting the opinions of other men under 5'10 — and their spouses — he knew he was onto something. He found out that many men wear clothes that don't fit them properly, invest in custom clothing, or buy off the rack and then have the clothes tailored.

Robinson knew that a successful line required a more accurate sizing scheme. To that end, the entrepreneur acquired Fittery, a digital company that used predictive analytics to create a sizing database that accurately determines body proportions. This database was filled with large data sets used to formulate the algorithms for both body sizing, and to match bodies to well-fitting clothing. He enlisted the help of his step sister, an analyst with Annalyze101, to query the database.

“We found between 50 and 75 size and fit combinations, but knew we needed to simplify or we would be drowning in inventory,” he explained. As a result, they narrowed down the best fits and cuts to six sizes — XS, S, M, L, XL and 2XL.

Ready to develop a proof-of-concept line, Robinson launched a 30-day funding campaign in May through Kickstarter, attracting 142 backers within 21 days. The process also solicited consumer feedback that he applied to the design of Under 5’10’s first collection — dress shirts that featured a trim, tailored look.

In August, the company’s e-commerce site went live with 11 shirt styles in six sizes, all priced at $59.99. The shirts are made with 100% cotton and feature narrow shoulders, slim torsos, and a shorter overall length. The garments also feature accurate stitching, buttonhole placements, collar heights and cuff lengths, “all elements that guarantee the shirt will fit properly,” Robinson said.

To help customers navigate their online shopping journey, the site features a sizing chart, as well as an interactive size recommender. By inputting neck size and sleeve length, the tool can suggest more accurate size options.

Under 5’10 also offers free returns and exchanges for 30 days in the contiguous 48 states. Adjustments are processed within four and seven days of being received. However, the company has yet to process any returns since its online launch, according to Robinson.

The start-up’s customer base is comprised of an affluent demographic, “one that equates value to time,” Robinson explained. “These shoppers are used to paying for tailoring and waiting to get their merchandise. Besides giving them better fitting shirts, we also wanted to give them instant gratification.”

This motivation, coupled with a seed investment of $750,000 led by brothers Baruch and Jonathan Glaubach, inspired the company to try out brick-and-mortar. (As part of the investment, Jonathan Glaubach joined the company as VP of product and retail and as a partner. He also happens to be 5’2.)

Opened in October, the Under 5’10 store is located on a busy shopping street in the town of Cedarhurst, New York. (Rather than use the space solely as a storefront, the location also serves as the company’s warehouse and corporate headquarters.) Shoppers can browse through the merchandise, and try on items in a fitting room.

The physical location has resulted in increased sales for the fledging business. The store sells an average of six-to-eight shirts per transaction, compared to one or two shirts sold during each online sale. Glaubach credits this higher conversion to “more precise sizing and the ability to test and try product.”

“Ninety percent of our customers who try on our shirts are perfectly fitted the first time,” he said.

Moving forward, the duo has big plans for the brand — including more stores. Specifically, they are considering micro-stores that stand approximately 600 sq. ft. “in every major city.” Pop-up locations are also an option, “as we won’t need to take on long-term leases, and can still test the waters in different neighborhoods,” Glaubach explained.

The company is also expanding its assortment into new categories, such as tech pants and jeans, both of which are launching in January. T-shirts, polo shirts and ties are next on the agenda, however no launch date has been determined.

The partners continue to evaluate how to further blend the two channels. For example, they are considering a “try before you buy” option that will enable customers to order an item online, and receive it in every available size to find the right fit. The customer would be able to return unwanted items and only pay for the ones they keep.

The partners are also keeping their eye on the evolution of body scanning technology to help online customers more accurately select their best size.

Meanwhile, Robinson wants to find new ways to collect customer data — especially at store-level.

“Consumer data is huge,” he said. “We can monitor the online journey and measurements added to the size recommender. But we need to find ways to capture as much data as possible, so we can test new options. We are not at our end game.”
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