Marks & Spencer seeks to end ‘it doesn’t fit’ worries with digital investment

Marks & Spencer has taken a stake in a specialist clothes fitting technology company as part of its drive to enhance its digital capabilities and bolster its appeal to fashion shoppers, Retail Week can reveal.

Marks & Spencer has invested in Texel, which enables consumers to create digital avatars using 3D scanning technology to find the clothing most appropriate to their shape and size.

The technology, which can be deployed through a single sensor in-store or by using a smartphone app, is designed to be convenient for the customer and cost-effective for the retailer, and could help boost apparel sales and reduce returns.

Building fashion sales and cutting returns, which are a frequently a problem across clothing retail, could give M&S an advantage in a tough clothing retail environment.

M&S bought into Texel through its joint venture with Founders Factory, the start-up investment and accelerator run by co-founder Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox.

The joint venture was launched last July when M&S became Founders Factory’s exclusive UK retail partner as part of its pivot towards being a digital first business.

Over the next several months M&S will work with Texel to develop, test and pilot the digital fit technology.

The exact ways Texel’s ‘shapometry’ will be deployed have not been finalised – M&S’s involvement with Founders Factory is designed to allow it to try out new ideas and innovate rather than supply a defined solution – but it will complement the retailer’s use of Optitex technology, which allows it to crate clothing patterns in 3D to visualise what it would look like on an avatar or mannequin.

M&S head of clothing and home technology Paschal Little said: “Texel’s technology opens up many exciting routes for us. Investing in businesses like Texel puts us at the sharp end of change and gives us the tools to test and trial new ways to inspire our customers.”

Texel co-founder Sergey Klimentyev said: “We are looking forward to seeing how we can help M&S with finding the perfect fit for their customers and enable them to shop online with confidence.”

The Texel deal is M&S’s third through the Founders Factory partnership. M&S has also backed on-the-go phone charging service ChargedUp and dehydrated organic dogfood business Rocketo. The latter could potentially allow M&S to create a specialist subscription service.