Companies Size Up Kids Online

More parents are embracing the convenience and wide selection that come with shopping online for their kids’ shoes. But getting the right fit is still a challenge.

To address the problem, U.K.-based firm Start-rite and German brand Ricosta have each developed online measurement systems that help Internet shoppers determine their children’s shoe size without visiting a store. Start-rite, which markets kids’ footwear under the Sonnet name in the U.S., recently rolled out a photographic measuring tool called Click ’n’ Fit on its e-commerce site. The technology allows parents to quickly measure their child’s feet using a digital camera. “It arose from our insistence that we would only allow online purchases if we had a credible mechanism in place for parents to take measurements at home,” said David Smith, the company’s information technology manager.

Parents are directed to have the child stand on a printable sizing grid provided on Start-rite’s website while they snap six pictures: of the top of each foot and inside and outside of each foot. The photos can be uploaded to Start-rite’s site and in seconds the child’s correct size and width are calculated.

Smith said the feedback from customers has been positive. “It really takes the hassle out of shoe shopping and means an end to queuing for service [in the stores] during busy periods,” he said. “It’s also perfect for people who live in more remote areas where there is no Start-rite retailer nearby.”

Ricosta’s system functions like a virtual Brannock device. After entering the child’s gender and calibrating the system according to the size of the computer screen, parents hold the bottom of the child’s foot up to the screen and align it on the measuring template. Using the mouse, they can move the slides up and down to calculate foot length and width. The system also generates suggestions for Ricosta styles that fit the measurements.

Joerg Ertl, the brand’s marketing manager, stressed that the technology does have its limitations. “Each foot is unique, and a proper fit concerns more than just length and width,” he said, adding that the system is not intended to replace fitting in the store by qualified sales personnel. But it can be a useful tool. “If parents don’t have access to or the time to take their child to a shoe shop, this is a great way for them to get an idea of the size and width their child needs.”

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