At first glance, the store Hointer in Seattle looks like any other clothing retailer — jeans, tops and accessories on display.
“When you’re in a store, if you think about it, there are many things you do that are very unpleasant,” Hointer CEO and founder Nadia Shouraboura told ABC News.
That’s why Hointer, which caters to men and women, isn’t run by people. Instead, smartphones and robotic-style technology control the shopping experience.
“I thought of an idea to bring the convenience of online shopping to the traditional store,” said Shouraboura, a former vice president of technology at Amazon.com. “It’s all run through technology. The ability to link it with your mobile device is where the power comes from. My mission is to make every experience of shopping easy and fast. ”
Hointer works from a customer’s own smartphone. All a shopper has to do is download the app, walk around the store and start scanning favorite items from the tags on the clothing. Once the item is scanned, the app allows shoppers to choose what sizes to try on, and indicates which fitting room the clothes will be in.
“Every fitting room has two shoots in it. One shoot is in, one shoot is out,” explained Shouraboura. “When you start tapping items you want to try on, they appear through the shoot.”
If an item doesn’t fit, the customer simply pulls up the app and requests a new size, and in 30 seconds the shoot spits out the new item.
“When you shop, you don’t enjoy going to the fitting room, standing there naked for a new size, and then having to dress up and go back to the floor. It’s not about fast shopping. It’s about an easier way to shop,” said Shouraboura.
Easier, but is it cheaper than shopping in a typical brick-and mortar store? Shouraboura said the operation saves the customer and the retailer money.
“Our store is significantly cheaper. It’s less square footage, less people,” she explained. “We match all online prices because our model is so effective.”
The high-tech technology doesn’t stop there. The fitting rooms also include tablets that keep an inventory of the clothing customers want to purchase. Once shoppers are ready to check out, they simply swipe their payment cards and leave, without experiencing any human contact.
“There are employees if the customer wants to talk. They’re more for styling,” said Shouraboura.
Hointer opened in Seattle last October, and Shouraboura said she has plans to open stores in Palo Alto, Calif., and eventually in Las Vegas.
“Our main invention is this micro-warehouse that sits within a store,” she said. “What we’ll see is that several years from now … that’s how people will shop. I’m absolutely convinced of that.”