Retail Revolution

If former Amazon vice president Nadia Shouraboura is right, her high-end men’s jeans shop will revolutionize the retail clothing world just as Amazon changed how people buy books. Shouraboura is making a $5 million bet with her own money that her Seattle-based Hointer store will appeal to male shoppers who hate wandering store aisles, fingering through piles of pants to find a size that never fits perfectly, and languishing in line to pay a cashier.

There are no checkout lines and no cashiers at Hointer, where “an intelligent computer brain is running the store,” as Shouraboura puts it, and the aim is to combine the best of online shopping with the ability to touch, feel and try on items.

The atmosphere feels fairly stark: High-end jeans from many brands hang in rows as if on clotheslines, letting customers easily examine the pants’ details. Want to try on a pair? Use a smartphone (borrow one from the store, if needed) to scan the desired pants’ QR code. Hear a whoosh sound, and watch jeans magically appear in your assigned fitting room in under 30 seconds. Wrong size? Tap your phone to request the next size and whoosh! A new pair lands in your room via a chute. Want to buy? Pay by phone. Need alterations? They’ll be done for free overnight. “Simple and fun,” Shouraboura deems it.

“Incredibly user-friendly,” says Patty Edwards, retail analyst and chief investment officer at Trutina Financial in Bellevue, Wash., after visiting the store. Men, she finds, generally hate asking clerks for help. At Hointer, customers don’t need to interact with anyone. It’s also retailer-friendly, shoplifting-wise, with no piles of clothes falling prey to sticky fingers.

The store “splits two worlds… virtual and reality. It is pure genius but whether it catches on is a different story,” Loreen Worden, editor at QRCodePress.com, tells SUCCESS. “I think mobile checkout systems are the way of the retail future, not virtual or robotic.”

Using QR codes “might attract men who don’t like shopping,” says Cleveland-based Freedonia Group industry analyst Esther Palevsky. (“Of course,” she adds, “the current system doesn’t seem like a hassle to me or most women who like the idea of looking at a lot of different things before making selections.”)

But Shouraboura says women ask her to move fast in opening a Hointress (now in development), and as of January, Hointer had plans to launch its first franchise men’s store soon.

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