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Footwear Protection Solution Imbox Sees US Expansion as ‘Natural Next Step’

Expanding on its existing 6,500-unit presence across Europe and Japan, in-store footwear protection service Imbox is entering the United States market.

When it launched in Denmark in 2011, Imbox Protection’s aim was to provide a more eco-friendly, “convenient” solution for shoe protection. About a decade later, the company today sells over 27 million spray-on treatments per year through retail partners that include Deichmann and The Athlete’s Foot.

Oliver Hede, country manager, North America at Imbox Protection Inc., said that the company’s success in Europe and Japan is “a clear sign that the consumer is happy to spend a few extra dollars to protect their new investment.” He added,” We know that the American consumer also appreciates convenience and are front-runners when it comes to in-store services. That’s why the U.S. market was a natural next step for us.”

Imbox’s treatment works on all types of footwear, including dress shoes, sneakers and hiking boots. The company’s machine is an enclosed box with four sprayers and a scanner to ensure complete coating for the shoe style being treated. In a 60-second treatment, these nozzles spray shoes with a water-based, organic solution that prevents footwear from showing signs of age—including damage, staining and color fading from snow, dirt, salt and UV rays.

“The footwear will receive an even layer of protection, decreasing the likelihood of missing spots, which is more likely to occur when spraying with a handheld spray,” Hede told Sourcing Journal. “Additionally, the Imbox has heating elements that enable a faster drying process, so the consumer can wear the treated footwear right away and have it be fully functional.”

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The protective properties last for six weeks. To extend this effect, customers can purchase aerosol sprays, helping to boost accessories and shoe care sales by 50 percent at participating stores. “Many may also believe that the Imbox would decrease the sales of classic sprays, but our partners have seen an uptick in sales of classic shoe care products,” Hede said. “While the 60-second treatment is taking place, sales personnel can connect with the consumer and suggest other accessories or shoe care products.”

Shoppers can also come back for further Imbox treatments; partner retailers have seen up to a 12 percent lift in return visits.

“Since the introduction of the Imbox protection system across our stores, we have seen a significant uptake across both outdoor and running footwear,” said Andrew White, retail director, Outdoor & Cycle Concepts LTD/Runners Need. “Our customers appreciate the convenience of having their footwear protected at the point of sale and the opportunity to, periodically, return for further treatment to continue to protect their investment.”

In addition to accessories sales, Imbox treatments themselves create additional revenue opportunities for retailers. The company’s partner stores tend to give Imbox treatments to about 40 percent of all purchased shoes. On the high end, customers opt for the protective treatment 80 percent of the time.

Imbox operates on a rental model. The company handles installation of the machines and training for the merchant’s store staff on using and promoting the device. The Imbox device launching in the U.S. has a 24-inch screen that enables the shopper to view their shoes undergoing the process in real time. This screen can also play promotional material, creating another brand engagement touchpoint. The device also captures data for the store, such as the shoe types that have been treated.

“It’s common to believe that the treatment would primarily be for expensive classic shoes, but over the last three to four years we have discovered that the Imbox treatment works well and sells well for all types of footwear—especially given its all-seasons protection,” Hede said. “We see it working well for classic, sports, sneakers, and outdoor footwear.”