Amazon vet’s robot-powered apparel startup partners with Levi’s, opens Manhattan store

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The new Levi’s pop-up store features Hointer technology, which helps open up space for a coffee shop and large sitting area.

Nadia Shouraboura knew she had a good idea when she debuted her robot-powered apparel shop, Hointer, this past November in Seattle.

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Customers at the new Levis/Dockers pop-up store can use an app powered by Hointer to help them easily find clothing.

Now, it appears others are starting to take notice of the technology that may change how we shop for clothes.

This week, Hointer helped open a Levi Strauss pop-up store in Lower Manhattan, marking the 10-month-old startup’s first partnership with a big-name apparel retailer.

Unlike Hointer’s other locations in Seattle and Palo Alto, you won’t see any of the company’s branding inside the new NYC store. It is a 100-percent Levi’s.

But it’s Hointer’s technology that powers the store — essentially, this is a Hointer store, but with a different name and products from just one company.

Before shopping, customers can download the Hointer app — it’s branded as a Levi’s app inside the NYC store — to help them shop. Each article of clothing has a QR code and NFC tag attached and shoppers can scan to find out how much of every item is available in the back and in which sizes/colors. This allows a retailer like Levi’s to hang just one article of each clothing in the air on the shop floor, eliminating traditional piles and clutter. Customers can also closely inspect every detail.

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The new Custom Khaki Bar at the Dockers/Levis pop-up store in Lower Manhattan.

“In the past, it would take a large shop floor to showcase a full collection, but with the help of technology, this small pop-up store carries the largest selection of Dockers items in the world with thousands of shirts, pants, coats, and belts in inventory packed tightly like sardines in a Hointer-powered micro-warehouse,” Shouraboura said of the new store.

The extra space allows for cool additions like a coffee shop, large seating areas and something new called a “Custom Khaki Bar,” as seen in the photo to the right. Customers can pull out a drawer full of different colored-pants, tap the one they want with a smartphone and use the app to add custom preferences.

“The Custom Khaki Bar offers a fun and efficient way to shop for custom-made pants,” Shouraboura told us. “Once you customize your pants, you can add a shipping address and a custom-made pant will arrive at your door step. Just swipe your card and you are done.”

Nadia Shouraboura (second from right) and some of her team at Hointer's Wallingford store.

Nadia Shouraboura (second from right) and some of her team at Hointer’s Wallingford store in Seattle.

Levi’s Executive Vice President Seth Ellison first stopped inside Hointer’s first store in Seattle this past fall and acted like a regular customer. He liked the experience and then visited Hointer’s pop-up store in Palo Alto with a colleague, where he introduced himself to Shouraboura and shared his interest in Hointer.

From there, a partnership was born, and now Levi’s is testing out Hointer’s technology with the Manhattan store. In addition to opening up floor space and creating more warehouse room, it helps them collect valuable data about customer preferences and experience through the app, allowing them to quickly respond to customers’ likes.

“It is still day one for the Levi’s Strauss/Dockers store of the future, but from talking to customers, they love the new Dockers experience and collection,” Shouraboura said.

One aspect missing from the NYC store is Hointer’s unique dressing room experience. At its other stores, once a customer scans a clothing’s barcode with the app, they are prompted with available sizes. Once selecting a specific pair, the clothes are dropped into a virtual shopping cart. Shoppers can drop other items into a shopping cart, and when ready, clicking “try on” will send them to a designated dressing room.

Inside Hointer's downtown Seattle pop-up store.

Inside Hointer’s downtown Seattle pop-up store.

When they arrive at the dressing room, the clothes will already be there, believed to be delivered through an automated robotic process on the back-end. Unwanted clothes can be sent back through a chute in the dressing room and they’ll automatically be taken out the shopping cart. Once ready to buy, customers use a pay station in the store, swipe their credit card and are done.

“We absolutely have to implement the fitting rooms for their next store,” Shouraboura said of Levi’s. “It adds a lot of convenience and makes a huge difference when shopping for apparel.”

The Levi’s partnership is the latest for a Hointer company moving fast. The startup recently partnered with Google to offer same-day shipping, and Shouraboura recruited two former Amazon employees to join the Hointer team, which already includes three others and a small business development group. As the Palo Alto and downtown Seattle pop-up stores close this winter, Hointer is also looking at opening another pop-up store in Los Angeles.

Editor’s note: Shouraboura will be on a Future of Retail panel at next week’s GeekWire Summit on Sept. 12. Get your tickets here.