MIS Quarterly Executive


Just in time for the holiday season of 2001, the Lands' End Web site trumpeted the firm's most recent information technology (IT)-based innovation: custom-made trousers. First announced in October of 2001, customers could custom-tailor chino trousers based on length, waist size, and a number of other fit dimensions--and select from a variety of colors and styles (e.g., cuffs, pleats). This initial offering was limited to men¡¯s and women¡¯s chinos. Customized jeans were added in April of 2002, followed by twill trousers and men's shirts in November 2002. Management had expected the initial offering to attract only a modest number of customers--primarily new customers for whom Lands' End's standard sizes did not provide a good fit. By September 2002, management expected the sale of custom-made jeans and chinos to account for only 10% of jeans and chinos sales on its Web site, Landsend.com. In reality, they accounted for an astonishing 40% of sales in those categories. The new service attracted an unexpectedly high proportion of existing customers as well as new customers. Today, custom products are among the top 20 products sold on Landsend.com. The new service has, indeed, fulfilled one important objective: attracting new customers to Lands' End. A large portion of them select custom apparel. In addition, many existing customers have found this service appealing. They are ordering other colors or design variations. These initial results were achieved with no advertising other than on the firm's Web site and in its catalog. This paper describes this IT-based service and Lands' End's experience with mass customization. With its business partner, Archetype Solutions, Lands' End built a cross-organizational, cross-border supply chain. The firm¡¯s experience is then used to explore a framework that others can use to identify, assess, and maintain the sustainability of competitive advantage from IT-enabled business strategies.