Lands End

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Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Volume 11, 2003)79-93


CUSTOM MADE APPAREL AND INDIVIDUALIZED SERVICE AT LANDS’ END Blake Ives Information Systems Research Center University of Houston Gabriele Piccoli Cornell University ABSTRACT The case describes a hugely successful example of IT-driven strategy, the Lands’ End custom tailored apparel initiative. In less than a year, 40% of Lands’ End customers buying chinos and jeans from the firm’s web site were buying tailored products. Over 20% of these customers never made a purchase over the web before. The case explores mass customization and web-based customer service initiatives while providing a rich opportunity to discuss the sustainability of competitive advantage derived from IT-driven strategic initiatives. The case also describes the cross-organizational and cross-border supply chain that Lands’ End and its business partner, Archetype Solutions, Inc constructed as well as Archetype’s extension of that chain to other retailers. Keywords: apparel, jeans, online shopping Editor’s Note: A teaching note is available from the first author to faculty so requiring it who are listed in the MISRC-ISWorld Faculty Directory. I. INTRODUCTION A tall man, Larry Cantera1 always found buying clothes a frustrating proposition. Only the largest US cities had high quality big and tall men’s apparel stores; the selection was usually small and the prices high. Cantera was intrigued when Lands’ End’s custom tailored chinos program was announced in late October of 2001. Using the web-based service, customers could custom tailor trousers based on length, waist size, and a number of other fit variables. Customers could also select among a variety of color and style options (e.g., cuffs, pleats). Only men’s and women’s chinos were included in the initial


A fictional name for a real Lands’ End customer.

Custom Made Apparel and Individualized Service at Lands’ End by B. Ives and G. Piccoli


Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Volume 11, 2003)79-93

offering. In April of 2002, customized jeans were added to the Land’s End web site2 and, in November of 2002, customized men’s twill trousers and men’s shirts were introduced. Cantera ordered five pairs of trousers and a dress shirt with French cuffs. Others apparently found value in the program. By the end of September, 2002, 40% of all jeans and chino’s sold on the Lands’ End web site were custom made, far more than the 10% management initially hoped for. While 20% of Lands’ Ends’ web shoppers were new customers, an even higher percentage of customers choosing custom apparel were making their very first web purchase [Bass, 2002]. These results were achieved with no advertising other than on the firm’s web site and in its catalog [Tedeschi, 2002]. They also, at least temporarily, defied the predictions of one expert in mass customization who believed that suits were a better candidate than jeans for customization because, while suit buyers expect delays associated with alterations, jean buyers want instant gratification [Pine, 2000].

II. MASS-CUSTOMIZATION In the late 1990’s mass-customization became increasingly popular3. A potentially industry transforming extension of mass-production, mass-customization was defined as a “process that uses the same production resources to manufacture a variety of similar, yet individually unique products” [TC2, 2002]. Among better-known examples were: made-to-order assembly of personal computers, first popularized by Dell Computer and later by Apple, Gateway, and others; customization of makeup and beauty care products, pioneered by [Swartz, 2002]; customized automobiles, pioneered by Ford Motor Company (although the need to rely on dealer network inventories for order fulfillment limited the initial success of that and similar initiatives). Peapod, WebVan, MyWebGrocer, FreshDirect, and others, also invested...
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