Reebok’s new vending machine.

NEW YORK — Reebok International is taking quick-stop shopping to a new level by selling sneakers in vending machines in New York and San Francisco.<BR><BR>Beginning Thursday, shoppers at Shoe Biz in San Francisco and Michael K’s here will...

NEW YORK — Reebok International is taking quick-stop shopping to a new level by selling sneakers in vending machines in New York and San Francisco.

Beginning Thursday, shoppers at Shoe Biz in San Francisco and Michael K’s here will be able to buy the brand’s Travel Trainer sneakers nearly as quickly as they can buy a can of soda from a vending machine. After selecting the size, color and style, shoppers swipe their credit cards to dispense their new kicks.

At this point, there are no plans to sell activewear in the machines.

To simplify shopping, the shoes are only offered in whole sizes. Three styles will be offered — Metro, First Class and Business Class. The $65 Metro has style-driven colors such as yellow, red, sky blue and royal for women, the $100 First Class Collection features neutral colors and the $75 Business Class has bold colors.

The concept was initially set up in the Tokyo airport and in a couple of stores there last year. Paul Fisher, senior merchandise manager for directional business, said, “thousands” of units were sold but, more importantly, it “created a buzz” and “drove people to the brand.”

“We want to get the hype going and get people talking about the brand,” he said. “We realize that, at the end of the day, people prefer to go into a store and try on real sizes.”

Reebok is considering installing vending machines in its stores here and in Los Angeles. Setting them up at road races and other fitness events and in more specialty stores also is being considered, Fisher said.

Shoppers at Shoe Biz in San Francisco’s Mission District already are asking about the Reebok vending machine even though the sneakers have not yet been installed. Mehran Esmaili, owner of Shoe Biz, a six-store operation, said the idea is a plus for Reebok, which has been “too urban or sport-oriented” in recent months.

This story first appeared in the August 4, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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