Digitoe, in Port Townsend, Washington,
is using its scanner technology to attract the custom-made shoe
market. Alan Zerobnick, President and CEO, is ready to use new
ideas to open up new markets.
"Most of our customers haven't
gotten what they wanted out of shoe stores. We want our shoes
to fit customers like they have never been fit before,"
Zerobnick said. "We're Custom Shoemakers at heart, but we
use a computer rather than measuring by hand."
"We work with other companies.
We only need to stock raw materials and we don't have any returns
or markdowns, so we can offer competitive custom shoes,"
he said. "Instead of $600 to $800 minimum for a pair, we
think we can sell them for under $400 per pair."
His strategy is echoed by Shane
Hayes, CPed., President and CEO of Shane's Foot Comfort Center
in Seattle, a "beta testing site" for Digitoe.
"I've tried to be knowledgeable
enough about new technology so I can figure out what is going
to be beneficial to my customers" Hayes said. "Alan
has given a lot of thought to this. Its not like he woke up yesterday
and said, 'let's go do something'. He's paid his dues."
Digitoe has had a separate room
in Shane's since April 1. Both Zerobnick and Hayes say they want
it to be a "seamless operation".
"I personally was not happy
until my foot was run through the system and the shoes fit perfectly,"
Hayes said. "Knowing how to make shoes myself and working
with problem feet, until I could personally put it on and feel
that it was working, I was not willing to go out and start talking
One thing the system lacks at
this point is a consistent turn around time, which Hayes believes
could be a sticking point with customers. Zerobnick, however,
maintains that turn around time, while important, is an arbitrary
Aside from the ability to deliver
the product in a stated period of time, questions remain about
reassuring the consumer as to the quality of the final product
and the role of the craftsman. As exciting as the technology
is, Hayes said, "you can never really replace the professional,
you can never replace the craftsmanship; this is just a modern
tool for doing what we used to do by hand."
Hayes knows there is professional
and consumer educations which is to be accomplished as well.
He worries that consumers may be confused by seeing different
machines in different places and may not understand the process
and craftsmanship involved in creating custom shoes.
"There are very few companies
that take it from the foot through the milling process to create
the product. I think that people are going to see machines that
measure the foot in one way or another, but do not actually produce
a product," he said.
Zerobnick's long-term goals include
retail sites owned and operated by Digitoe to complement the
company's web site (www.Digitoe.com) and other retail kiosks
that the company may license. Digitoe is already doing business
globally, with 7-9,000 hits a month on its website, Zerobnick