Retailers Use Bay Area to Test Radically Different Models

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Hointer’s men’s and women’s fashion stores display clothing only on mannequins—eliminating the need for stacked clothing of varying sizes. Customers use their smartphones to download the Hointer store app and tap tags of items and sizes they want to try on. An automated system finds clothing in the stockroom and they appear in dressing rooms via a chute.

[contextly_sidebar id=”9eebb578fafaf22870c61d7983ddb502″]Hointer customers are price-conscious and fashion forward, said founder and CEO Nadia Shouraboura, a former technology vice president for global supply chain and fulfillment at Amazon.

She predicts this modern retail experience will attract customers seeking hassle-free shopping.

“I think [there’s] no question mobile shopping will become the norm,” Shouraboura said. “It’s so convenient, it gives you control over the experience.”

Hointer has a 4,500 square foot store in Seattle and is now partnering up with other brands interested in using its technology, including a Levi’s store in New York City and a MDS Collections women’s clothing and accessories store in downtown Singapore. Hointer expects to partner with more Levi’s stores and may open a few prototype stores—with San Francisco a potential market— “to test ideas and concepts and the shopping experience,” Shouraboura said.

Hointer’s tech-driven focus on shopper convenience attempts to marry elements of what arguably has been the most successful modern retail model—online shopping—with brick-and-mortar retailing. The store promises the ease of online shopping and the confidence of a try-then-buy on-site experience.

Hointer’s mechanized inventory system removes much of the sensual elements from the shop floor that Selfridge found so enticing to shoppers a century ago. However, whether it will be successful with the one very tactile product category Shouraboura’s alma mater Amazon has steadfastly refused to enter—clothing—remains to be seen.

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