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Session Spotlight: Reinventing Brick-and-Mortar


Brick-and-mortar stores are in transition from being viewed as a relic of the 20th century to being understood as the linchpin of 21st century omnichannel retailing. In the SPECS session “Reinventing Brick & Mortar Retail,” speaker Nadia Shouraboura, founder and CEO, Hointer Inc., explained just how wide-ranging that transition will be.

“The next 10 years will see more profound change in store design than we’ve seen in the last 1,000 years,” said Shouraboura.

A Russian native who served as technology VP, global supply chain and fulfillment platform at before launching specialty denimwear retailer Hointer in 2012, Shouraboura kicked off the session by describing the state of retail in the communist Russia of her youth.

“You would come into the store and nothing would be on the shelves,” she said. “You would stand in line, wait, and they would bring out something and you would take home as much as they would let you. If you live without it, you have a deep appreciation of retail.”

Armed with this appreciation as well as first-hand expertise with the online shopping experience, Shouraboura launched a store concept that would combine the ease of e-commerce with the touch, feel and personal experience of the store. Using proprietary technology, Shouraboura has turned Hointer stores into mobile showrooms where customers encounter an uncluttered, minimal merchandise display.

“We took piles of items and moved them to the back,” said Shouraboura. “We left one of each item on display and made the store a showroom. It opened phenomenal opportunities.”

Using their mobile devices as what Shouraboura termed the “remote to the store,” customers scan proprietary tags that allow them access to more detailed product information and also let them order as many different variations of the item as they choose for try-on. Merchandise is automatically delivered to the fitting room, where customers can order additional garments and also automatically return items they don’t want.

Shoppers can perform self-checkout with their mobile device, and premium shoppers can simply leave the store with the items they want automatically tracked by their tags and charges applied to a credit or debit account on file with Hointer. Sales and customer satisfaction are up, while returns and shrinkage have dramatically gone down.

The back-end benefits are even greater. The cost of cleaning fitting rooms and shelves is drastically reduced, and store associates have time to become “style consultants” who actively help promote sales.

In addition, Hointer gains insight into what items convert well from the fitting room, allowing the retailer to adjust store layout and merchandising to boost try-on rates. It can also determine if certain items sell well to a specific type of customer, allowing them to boost in-store sales with highly targeted promotions and selling. This insight also allows demand-based selling and replenishment.

“We have a long way to go from today,” concluded Shouraboura. “The front [of the store] must be redesigned. Having space allowed me to be creative. I added more selection without having to add inventory.”

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