Vivobarefoot planning 3D printing shoes

Specialist shoe retailer Vivobarefoot has plans to launch 3D printing services in 2020, enabling its customers to get a more personalised and customised footwear.

The innovative approach to product development fits into a range of new services and platforms in the pipeline for the UK-based business, which trades internationally and currently brings in annual revenue of circa £40 million.

Talking at e-tail trade body IMRG’s Fashion Connect event, chief commercial officer Paul Walker explained the retailer’s plans for the year ahead.

Describing “3DVivo” as the most exciting project, he said: “We’re looking at 3D scanning people’s feet and 3D printing shoes which addresses a few issues.

“We potentially could have 3D printers in major cities around the world, and wherever you live you could send the order to that facility. And within a couple of days you could have a personal 3D printed shoe.”

Walker argued that Vivobarefoot’s shoes fit people’s feet “much closer than most other shoes” – it is part of the business’s focus on producing products in line with biomechanics. However, he noted, “the reality is we’re still selling full-size shoes” despite most people having one foot slightly differently sized to another – 3D printing would help address this discrepancy.

The 3D printing fits into three key project areas for 2020 – the others being the re-platforming of its website, planned for June, and the unveiling of a “ReVivo” initiative, which will result in the company re-purposing end-of-line shoes and selling them on a dedicated website at a reduced cost.

Walker’s interview on stage covered a range of issues, including his view that it is crucial for businesses to start thinking about sustainability as being “regenerative” rather than simply preserving raw materials for future generations.

“Sustainability means we maintain the status quo, but if the world is already screwed maintaining a screwed world isn’t really good enough,” he noted, adding that his business’s aim is to find restorative ways of doing business. He acknowledged that is no easy task, based on the very existence of complex and, often, “dirty” supply chains.

Walker also revealed the business is keen to move towards becoming a £90 million operation over the next three years, supported primarily by organic growth and further international expansion, rather than via outside investment.

Currently circa 75% of its global sales are facilitated direct to consumer online, although he described customers at its 30-store estate as “stickier”. Part of the new online project set for the summer is to better connect Vivobarefoot’s international store and online operations, Walker said.