Woolworths is using body scanners to keep up with the shape and size of their shoppers.

Durban - At 163.5cm, (five foot four inches for those who measure height in feet and inches) I am not particularly tall, but nor am I particularly short.

Or so I thought, until I complained to Woolworths about three years back about a pair of jeans I’d bought, in the smallest size, and found that even in heels, the denim cascaded in folds on to the floor. Where were the pencil-like women these jeans were clearly designed for, I asked?

The buyer in question responded by saying that the company “monitors customer demand for size and fit carefully, following ‘international size/fit benchmarks’”.

They cater for the average woman’s height – 169-173cm.

“Unfortunately, your height is outside of our standard and we truly regret not being able to accommodate your height requirement.”

That came as a bit of a shock, given that, until that pair of jeans, I’d never been made to feel particularly height challenged before.

I have since discovered, thanks to Google, that the average height of South African women is just 159cm, which makes me above average height, here and in other countries, so something doesn’t quite gel with that international benchmark story.

Hence, I was delighted to discover that Woolworths has embarked on a “find your perfect fit” national sizing survey “to ensure that our clothing sizing standards still meet the needs of our customers”.

“No survey like this has ever been done before for the South African population,” said Woolies’s head of womenswear, Thateng Shimange.

The retailer is partnering with Alvanon, international market leader in body scanning and fit form development, which boasts a collection of 300 000 body scan measurements from 21 different countries.

“We will be using the same state-of-the-art body scanner used by top global brands like Levi, Marks & Spencer and Target,” Shimange said.

First stop was the Gateway shopping centre in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, where 400 people stepped into the cylindrical scanner to be scanned on the first day.

On day two I filled in the form, then stepped – fully clothed – into the scanner. The door closed, and I was made to make like a mannequin – stand dead still, legs apart, arms held slightly away from my sides, eyes fixed on a target for 15 seconds.

Then the computer spat out my vital statistics and recommended clothing sizes for top and bottom.

“Using the data from the survey, we will be reviewing our fits and sizing across womenswear and menswear and will be assisting our suppliers in updating our pattern blocks and fit forms, where required,” Shimange said.

There may well be hope for we “sub standard” shorties at last.

The Gateway body scanning sessions are over but the system will be set up at Joburg’s Sandton City from Thursday February 26 to Sunday March 2, and at Canal Walk in Cape Town from March 5 to 9.

Cape Times