The lengthy, predominantly male queues outside Apple shops on launch days suggest that, contrary to received wisdom, not all men hate shopping. Yet the impression that they do periodically prompts retailers to try and re-invent the activity to appeal to the more retail-reluctant half of the population. The latest such ploy is a high-tech clothing chain called Hointer, which opened its first branch in Seattle last month selling jeans. Hointer has no over-solicitous sales assistants, no confusing piles of clothes and no endless lines at the tills. Instead, only one of each style of jeans is displayed on the shop floor. Shoppers use a smartphone app to scan items they wish to try on, and choose a size and colour.

The app sends a message over the internet to a robotic system in the stock room. This locates a pair in the correct size and uses tensioned cables to drop it into a basket in one of the shop’s six large dressing rooms. When Babbage tried it, the whole process took less than the time to walk to the fitting room, around 30 seconds. If the jeans fit, customers can simply put them in a bag, swipe their credit card through a reader and walk out the door without ever interacting with another person.

… will be like buying clothes online but in real life.