September 1, 2009, 12:00 AM

Sam’s Club steps into web-enabled foot-scanning kiosks

The wholesale club division of Wal-Mart Stores is testing in several stores web-enabled kiosks from eSoles that are designed to scan customers’ feet and match them with custom-fitted footwear insoles.

Sam’s Club, the wholesale club division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., is testing in several stores web-enabled kiosks from eSoles LLC that are designed to scan customers’ feet and match them with custom-fitted footwear insoles for shoes, boots and athletic footwear. Records of each scan are stored on the web to support future insole purchases in any store or e-commerce site that sells eSoles products.

Sam’s Club launched the first tests of the eSoles 3D TruCapture Kiosk Scanning System in two stores in Arizona last month in what it calls its eSoles Road Show. The tests, each running about 10 days, are expected to have run in about 10 Sam’s Club stores in Arizona, Arkansas, California and Missouri by the end of October.

Glen Hinshaw, CEO of eSoles, says the tests are generating more interest than expected and that he expects Sam’s Club to roll out the kiosks permanently in a large number of its stores. “Testing has progressed to a point where we’re expecting to enter a long-term deployment plan, and we expect a high percentage of Sam’s Club stores to have the eSoles footprint scanner available.”

A spokeswoman for Sam’s Club declined to clarify long-range plans for the kiosks. “We are pleased to date with the eSoles Road Show but continue to evaluate member interest in the product,” she says. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

ESoles has also rolled out its scanning system in dozens of specialty retail stores, including bike and golf equipment shops, which often cater to athletes who want a perfect-fitting athletic shoe. ESoles recently signed a contract with PGA Tours Inc. for its network of airport-based golf shops. Other retailer clients include Trek Bicycle Corp. and CycleLoft.com, a Boston-based retailer that operates a similarly named store and promotes the eSoles system along with other equipment-fitting systems.

In Sam’s Club stores, where the kiosks are located near pharmacy sections, eSoles is more interested in reaching people who work on their feet all day and need custom-fitting insoles in their work shoes, Hinshaw says.

Overall, the kiosks have produced “four or five times what we had expected in traffic and sales” of insoles, Hinshaw says. “We plan to have hundreds of kiosks deployed over the next 15 months in specialty stores, chains and big-box retailers.”

The cost of installing the eSoles kiosk system starts at about $15,000 to $17,000 in first-year licensing and start-up costs, including employee training, maintenance,s and a two- or three-month supply of eFit footbeds or insoles. After the first year, the system costs about $6,000 annually. Footbeds sold on-site cost about $70 each; customers can also use their footprint scans to order special custom-fitted footbeds at up to $300 each.

ESoles figures a retailer needs to sell on average one $70 insole per day to cover kiosk operating costs, Hinshaw says.

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