New clothing store offers high-tech approach to shopping

SEATTLE -- For anyone who thinks shopping for clothes should be a fast and efficient experience, an ex-Amazon executive has developed a store for you.

Nadia Shouraboura spent nine years working on supply-chain efficiency at Seattle's online giant. But even as she was building one of the most proficient shipping operations in the world, she had an idea that was stewing in her head.

"I just wanted to make shopping fast and fun," said Shaouraboura.

So the native-born Russian, armed with a PhD in mathematics from Princeton, left Amazon and invested $5 million of her own money into brand new way to shop for clothes.

That dream has now developed into a men's clothing store near Seattle's University District called Hointer. It's a combination of Amazon's online logistical efficiency and old fashion but trendy upscale brick and mortar.

"You come in, you're in, you scan and you're gone," Shaouraboura said.

Shoppers are given a choice to buys clothes the old fashion way using a salesperson, or by-passing any contact with a human at all. The store is line with many different styles of men's fashions, primarily pants. But there is one floor sample of each style.

Each item has a QR code and an embedded near-field-communications or NFC antenna embedded into the tag. Customers are encouraged to download free app from either the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

Once launched, the Hointer app automatically starts up using the phone's camera as a barcode scanner. A customer holds the phone over the QR code of the item, the app then shows all the sizes available in the store from the inventory which is out of sight of the customer.

"You don't have to dig through piles of clothes and or wonder if the size is in stock or not, the app will show your right away," Shaouraboura said.

Next comes the cool part: Once you've selected the clothes you want, in the size you want, customers click on the "try on" button. The app will assign you a fitting room that will be only your dress room during the length of your stay.

Within 30 seconds, the clothes you want to try start arriving in a bin inside your fitting room. If you don't like what you get, slide the item down another chute and automatically the unwanted item is removed from the app's shopping cart.

If you want to buy the item, each dressing room is outfitted with tablet PC that lists the items in your cart. Slide your credit card through a reader installed with the tablet and your purchase is done. You can pick up the receipt at the store's main desk or have it emailed to you.

"So what I've done is look at everything customers hate about shopping and I got rid of it," Shouraboura said.

She's not shy in saying she thinks her vision of shopping will change brick and mortar stores forever.

"There's no waiting," she said.

She won't reveal how the items show up so quickly in the fitting room, calling it "the Hointer secret." But it does involved those NFC tags sliding by readers and software that updates the store's app instantaneously. Robotics will eventually be used to streamline the process.

The store at 4th Ave NE and 45 St NE is consider a pilot store, so she and her staff of three are still working out the bugs. She hopes to open up a woman's apparel store called Hointress in the future.

Despite an occasional blimp in the software, there maybe no other clothing store where you can get in and get out so fast.