The fit technology landscape is a busy one, with startups employing everything from body scans and virtual try-ons to qualitative questionnaires in a race to figure out the best way to bring the fitting room experience online. It's a young space, but if there are eventually going to be a few big winners and a whole lot of losers, the four-year-old Fits.me has just improved its odds of winding up the former — by acquiring one of its New York competitors, Clothes Horse, and with it a whole new technical tool set.
The teams did not disclose the terms of the deal, although the entire Clothes Horse staff will remain on through the transition. What role its founders will take remains unclear; according to Fits.me CEO James Gambrell, who joined the company in May, the next question is how to integrate the two teams. He says he plans to bring Clothes Horse's co-founders into strategic decisions but would like to see each taking on different responsibilities within the company.
How the two products will change post-acquisition also remains somewhat up in the air.
The London-based Fits.me focuses on building virtual fitting rooms with avatars based on the shopper's exact measurements. Clothes Horse generates size recommendations by asking the user about her body type, the brands she likes and how they fit. In both cases, the client is a retailer, which can add the software to its site. Fits.me actually has a secondary tool similar to Clothes Horse's, called "Fit Advisor," but it's less developed than its graphics solution.
So the acquisition gives the startup the ability to offer potential clients two different solutions for fit technology, which is helpful because retailers are completely divided on the subject. (Remember, everyone is new to this space.) Clothes Horse co-founder Vik Venkatraman says he hasn't seen a clear trend in preference on the basis of price point or target demographic; some brands just want renderings to accomplish their goals, and some don't. For Fits.me to have two products in its pitch — and down the line, possibly a hybrid offering — is a very good thing.
Clothes Horse also gives Fits.me the distinct advantage of a toehold in the U.S., a market it hasn't dipped into much in favor of focusing on Europe, where its clients include Thomas Pink and QVC. Clothes Horse's current clients, which include Frank and Oak and Nicole Miller, can continue using the service they have been, but they now have the option to test out Fits.me or a hybrid of the two should they want. And because the entire ClothesHorse team will stay on through the transition, Fits.me now has a team on the ground in New York.
"We believe we needed local talent," says Gambrell of the company's U.S. expansion. "This will be the springboard."
There are a lot of remaining question marks around this deal, so we'll be watching to see what happens.
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