Innovation is, of course, a necessary competence for any successful organization. We usually think of it as being centered around new technologies, but it can have new ways of doing things in distribution, selling, or any other business area, as its center.
Witness the new approach that Jockey has taken to making and selling bras. Most women I know (if I know them well enough) agree with my wife that bra shopping and fitting is a complete pain, and getting one that fits perfectly requires both diligence and luck. Bras have always been made and sold with two measurements: girth and cup size, which, as it turns out, is a pretty incomplete description for getting a good fit.
Jockey’s new system is based on scans of over 800 women. They send a woman a “fit kit” for $20 (which is deducted from her first order). The kit contains 10 cups, one of which is virtually certain (remember the 800 scans) to fit any woman perfectly. She then measures her under-bust girth, and selects from one of 5 styles. The bra she has specified is then made to order for her, and they sell for about $50. (Men: that’s a the normal price for a bra. One of them – not a half-dozen!)
Is Jockey making money on this? Well…if you assume that they give away half of their retail price to the retailer, and that their cost of manufacture and selling didn’t double, then they are making more margin with this model than with traditional in-store sales. And they have happy, loyal, grateful customers who are locked into (and happy with) their proprietary sizing system.
This is innovation from many angles…applied to a century-old problem.
And in a bit of irony, my wife discovered this innovation via a distinctly old-school promotional method: direct mail.