A Geek-Friendly Shoe Store

Not a lot has changed in the shoe retail business for a very long time, with most still using the metal sliding Brannock shoe measuring device first patented in 1926. A New Jersey company has opened a single retail store in Englewood to try and show how advanced such a movement merchant could be. The store features an array of shoe-measuring devices that use digital scanners, pressure sensors and a Microsoft-powered table that displays pricing, availability and color/design options for any shoe placed on it.

The centerpiece, from a company called Aetrex, is something the store calls iStep Wave and its claim is that it can go beyond measuring shoe size to examine arch type and pressure points—and do it all in half-a-minute. The store says the device uses "3,744 gold-plated barometric sensors that measure the pressure exerted by your foot every 0.25 cm squared and 1,326 infrared LEDs and receptors that are aligned every half millimeter."

For that boost in sales, the device will also suggest to the customer orthotic accessories.

Once its measurements are complete, it displays the scan of your foot in a colorful presentation on a nearby screen and offers to E-mail or MMS the image for digital retention. Not sure of the point of the file transmission, but Aetrex Spokesperson Karen Pineman said, "You can get this scan that you see on the monitor sent to your E-mail or your mobile. It's something fun to do."

Fun to do? Yep, whenever I need an emotional pick me up, I just dash into a shoe store to have my foot scanned so I can add that scan to my foot image collection. Pineman added that she has shared her scans with friends and that it's not an uncommon thing to do. (I should have learned years ago to never discuss shoe purchasing with women. It's one gender divide that I somehow doubt will ever be crossed.)

Getting back to the deliciously nerdy details of this store, each shoe has a 2D barcode on it. Well, "on it" suggests a more integrated approach. The barcodes are actually printed on non-fading paper and then literally stapled to the bottom of each shoe. (Hey, it works, OK? Not everything has to be lasers and pressure scanners.)

The store is using a Microsoft Surface table, and it uses digital cameras to read and interpret the barcodes of shoes placed on the specially outfitted table. "Once a shoe with a tag is placed on the table, the system instantaneously displays an interactive image of the shoe along with its product details and description," said Al Cardona, Aetrex's senior Web operations manager. "The user can then manipulate the image, resize it, reposition it and select other shoes from other categories that are displayed on the table."

Cardona said other enhancements are imminent. "In the next evolution of our software, we plan on tying the tags into our inventory ERP and POS system. Currently, we have been working on usability and interactivity for the customer and plan on doing a release that contains more communication with our high-tech systems in the store," he said.

And what geeker sneaker peeker would be complete without an Apple mobile POS checkout system, which the initial store has.