By Emma Thomasson
BERLIN (Reuters) - Adidas has been testing a store where shoppers can design a sweater, have a body scan to determine fit and get it knitted by a state-of-the-art machine within hours, as the German company looks at ways to respond more quickly to customer demands.
The sportswear group is working on several initiatives to cut the time it takes to get new designs to stores from the 12 to 18 months now standard in the sneaker industry, including opening factories mainly operated by robots in Germany and the United States.
It hopes the drive will help it adjust better to fickle fashion trends, allowing it to sell more products at full price as it seeks to meet a new goal to bring its operating profit margin closer to rival Nike's by 2020.
At a pop-up Adidas store in a mall in Berlin, customers designed their own merino wool sweaters for 200 euros ($215) each and then had them knitted in the store, finished by hand, washed and dried, all within four hours.
Shoppers first entered a darkened room where swirling camouflage and spider web patterns were projected onto their chests, with options to shift the light using hand gestures picked up by sensors, like in an interactive video game.
Dozens of possible options were recorded and the customers picked their favourite ones on a computer screen, where they could also experiment with different colour combinations.
Customers chose standard sizes or stripped down to their underwear for laser body scans. Then the personalised pattern was sent to an industrial knitting machines in the store.
"It is very individual. It is like knitting your own sweater," said Christina Sharif, adding she ordered shorter arms on her electric blue sweater than the standard model.
Adidas wants 50 percent of its products to be made in a faster time frame by 2020, double the rate in 2016, which it expects will increase the proportion of products sold at full price to 70 percent from less than half now.
"If we can give the consumer what they want, where they want it, when they want it, we can decrease risk ... at the moment we are guessing what might be popular," Adidas brand chief Eric Liedtke told investors last week.
The "Knit for You" store is part of a research project supported by the German government in cooperation with academics and industrial partners. A store assistant said it had sold up to 10 sweaters on busy days, particularly before Christmas.
An Adidas spokeswoman said the data and feedback from the project were now being evaluated before the company decided whether to pursue the concept.
($1 = 0.9294 euros)
(Editing by Mark Potter)