Re: The Next Step

From: Yakov Horenstein (
Date: Thu Mar 21 1996 - 13:13:38 EET

This morning's International Herald Tribune carries the following story.

Step Up to the Electronic Tailor For Your "Mass-Customed" Shoes
by John Holusha, NY Times Service

When the Custom Foot shoe store opens its doors in Westport, Connecticut,
for the first time Thursday, it may be hard to judge how business is going
- even shoppers making a purchase will be leaving empty handed.

That's because this is a shoe store without shoes. Well, not exactly - the
store can draw on a potential inventory of more than 10 million pairs, with
every style in every possible size. It's just that none of them have been
made yet.

Instead of trying on shoes until they find some that fit reasonably well,
shoppers at Custom Foot will have their feet scanned electronically, with
the scanner capturing even the slight differences in size and width that
typically distinguish the right foot from the left. The data will be
transmitted to factories in Italy, where the shoes will be made to order
and delivered in about two weeks. The price? An average of about $140,
comparable too high-quality mass-produced shoes but well below the $500 or
more that a handmade pair usually demands.

The store on Main Street in the affluent commuter suburb is the latest, and
in some ways the most ambitious, experiment in what marketing experts call
"mass customization." This seemingly contradictory term describes the
process of using computers, flexible manufacturing techniques and
sophisticated marketing approaches to narrowly target products and services
to the needs of the individual buyer.

Mass customization gives individual customers "exactly what they want,
without creating overwhelming choice complexity or pushing costs up to the
point that a company prices itself out of the market," said...

Some electronics products...have been mass customised for several years,
with customers specifying the types of components to be used or the
features desired. Large trucks are mostly custom built as well, with buyers
detailing the type of engine, transmission and other major components to be

Mass customisation is also catching on in the service sector. By studying
demographics and individual credit histories, some financial services
companies now offer customized deals for credit cards, for instance,
varying the interest rates, credit limits and other terms, customer by


"Mass customization is the wave of the future"....Whether shoppers will be
similarly enthusiastic is not yet known, of course...


For more on this subject, read Marshall Burns
Automated Fabrication, chaps. 9 & 10

Yakov Horenstein Tel/Fax: +39 2 2900 6208
Milano, Italy E-mail:

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