Computerized Measuring and Manufacturing
can, in theory, create custom shoes at lower cost.
After 25 years in the shoe business
and 10 years working on a mass customization model, Alan Zerobnick,
President and CEO of Digitoe (Port Townsend, Washington), is
making headway with his privately-owned and funded venture. A
Custom Shoemaker, Zerobnick is in the process of developing an
independent network of mobile retail fitting units- 28 foot motor
coaches- that will travel around Seattle, visiting clients at
the airport, hotels, or ferries. Mass customization, he says,
is not in demand at the retail level yet, but he predicts that
it will be in the next 5 years.
Last year a comfort shoe retailer
in Seattle installed a Digitoe scanner in his store but the symbiosis
was short-lived, Zerobnick says. He blames staff turnover and
a lack of career shoe dogs.
"The idea of marketing footwear
this way is totally different," he says. "When salespeople
can go to the wall and grab a shoe and make $50, they wonder
why to to all that trouble?"
The strength of mass customized
footwear, Zerobnick says, is that it eliminates inventory completely,
as well as markdowns, returns, and out-of-stocks.
"The retailer of the future
will be more service-oriented than product-oriented. You won't
walk in and buy a pair of shoes, but you might call them up and
order a pair," he says.