The Future of Shopping
Shoppers at Hointer in Wallingford can scan the coded tag and are given a choice of sizes, colors, photos and reviews. (Image: Tonya Mosley)

The Future of Shopping

What if you could ditch those shopping bags you’re always forgetting, or do away with pushing around sticky carts; instead using your smartphone to grocery shop?

Hointer founder and CEO Nadia Shouraboura says phone grocery shopping is not just another Jetson dream. “We have a partnership with a big box grocery store. It’s coming, in 2015.” Shouraboura is keeping the details of that partnership under wraps, but the idea signals the direction of this technology-based store, where shoppers use their smartphones to purchase clothing.

When Hointer opened three years ago, it was touted as one of the only outlets using technology to sell clothing. Today, Hointer is pushing the boundaries as an incubator of innovation. “We want to be the platform for retailers,” says Shouraboura. “Our lab is constantly testing out and creating.”

Housed on NE 45th in Wallingford, Hointer is part store, part laboratory. In the back, coders are hunched over computers, creating ways to make the shopping experience better. In the front of the store, individual pieces of clothing hang from the ceiling. Shoppers use a Hointer app to capture the coded tag attached to each piece.
The app gives the shopper a choice in size and color – also providing reviews, pictures, tweet options and most importantly, a dressing room number.

By the time you step foot in the dressing room, your clothing choices are there, appearing through a chute. If you don’t like them, simply throw them back down. The pieces instantly disappear from your smartphone cart and a tablet attached to the wall, which shows all of your choices.

“How does the chute work?” I ask Shouraboura. “Is there someone down there?”

“It’s magic!” she jokes. Then continues with an earnest face. “No actually a 7 foot basketball player is there throwing and dunking the clothes into the shoot.”

“Ah, magic,” I laugh.
“Yes, magic,” chuckles Shouraboura.

Whatever the secret mechanism, Shouraboura believes she’s found a niche that was waiting to be filled. “It’s an intuitive experience. People come in here and they just know what to do. And with every experience, we’re able to customize what each customer wants.”

Take the grocery-shopping scenario for example.
Shouraboura says soon we’ll be able to use our phones to scan the foods we want, and by the time we’re ready to leave, our groceries will be there, waiting for us. And just like the Hointer store, we won’t need a wallet, just a scan of our payment information over our smartphones - and we’re done.

“No more dragging your kids and the cart and your bags. This will make it much easier,” believes Shouraboura.

In addition to grocery store partnerships, Hointer is also working with a major toy store and clothing outlets in the United States, Singapore and the UK.

“What we do is the next step in the shopping experience. I want to be a part of the future.”

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