Opening of a store with contactless payment in Seattle

SEATTLE — In the entrance to Pioneer Square’s brand new clothing store, an unassuming black table is able to sense what’s sitting on it.

From a pile of messy clothes piled up there, he can choose a pink blouse, a yellow dress and a blue jumpsuit – complete with designer and price tag.

The store’s seemingly indescribable centerpiece, Armoire, has sensors hidden inside that connect to a small tag sewn into each garment, connecting to a digital database that tracks each item when it leaves the store and when he returns.

It’s a high-tech way to track inventory and hopefully make shopping less hassle for customers.

“The checkout experience wasn’t delightful,” said Ambika Singh, founder of Wardrobe, a clothing rental company that caters to what the company calls the “lady boss,” or busy women. who need new styles without maxing out their credit cards. and fill their cupboards.

“We didn’t replace the human with a robot running on the ground telling you what to do,” she said. “We replaced this unpleasant experience on both sides with automation.”

Singh, the self-proclaimed “chief boss” of Armoire, started Armoire in 2016 to help women find new styles with a subscription service that lets them rent and swap new clothes at a so-called “shared closet”. Since then, Armoire has opened and closed two retail stores and weathered the effects of a virus that has altered workplaces, hours and fashion priorities.

Now, Armoire has invested in a contactless payment experience for its new 16,000 square foot location in Pioneer Square. The space includes Armoire’s office and a boutique where customers can shop in person and try on styles they’ve ordered online.

The black-topped, sensor-equipped table greets customers as they enter the store, where they are prompted to log into their account and leave their returns on the table to be scanned. After signing this, the table has correctly identified the items, customers place them in bins below to be cleaned and restocked for the next shopper.

“We’re built to serve the busy woman…we want to make her life a little bit easier,” Singh said. “And digitally what that has always meant to us, and what it means to us here as well, is an organized set of choices. … This extension of thinking is what led us to the RFID solution.

RFID, in industrial parlance, means radio frequency identification. RFID tags are what sensors use to identify the item and track its location.

Ten people from Wardrobe’s team of 45 employees have spent the last few weeks sewing these labels into its arsenal of 75,000 garments.

Wardrobe, which calls its new contactless payment experience Wardrobe Go, says it’s not connected to Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, the system of sensors and cameras that popularized the idea of ​​shopping without stopping at a cash register.

Amazon’s system uses a combination of hardware and software to track which items a customer picks up – and which ones they put back on the shelf – while shopping, and automatically bills their account based on what they take out. .

Armoire says its technology follows the product, not the customer.

“RFID is completely disconnected from the customer,” Singh said. “For us, it’s less about trying to extract data for ourselves and more about how to improve that experience?”

As companies like Amazon, Walmart and Grabango roll out their own kind of touchless experiences, the market could represent a $50 billion opportunity, according to an estimate from venture capital firm Loup Ventures.

Armoire has invested more than $5,000 in setting up its technology. He currently uses a table at the front of the store, but has more to continue expanding contactless possibilities.

For a customer, using the sensors and tags means the system can process their returns immediately, unlocking the ability to rent even more garments immediately.

For the business, technology can help it process and track the thousands of returns it receives every day. Running a business that allows customers to rent items inherently has a 100% return rate, Singh said. In the same way, it can help Wardrobe keep track of the racks and racks of clothes that the dry cleaner drops each day.

Megan Woodruff, a software engineer at Armoire who got her start at Microsoft, launched the system in about a month.

She says it’s in “minimal viable product” status at the moment, but has already mapped out future plans to use the same system to improve other parts of the customer experience.

She hopes to place sensors in a rack in each fitting room, so that when a customer hangs up the pieces they are about to try on, the sensors can identify the item and display images of how styling clothes.

Later, she wants to use the data Armoire has about its subscribers — the clothes they choose to rent each month — to curate options just for them, hanging on the shelves when they come to pick up an order online.

“We’re just on the edge of what this is going to bring us,” Singh said.

Ambika Singh, left, the founder of Armoire, and Megan Woodruff, the engineer who designed the contactless payment system, are at the store opening on March 9, 2022. Clothing rental company Armoire opened its doors on Wednesday, March 9, with contactless payment options similar to Amazon Go, but unique and proprietary.

The business is similar to Amazon Go, but for clothes

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