RFID Talk Blog

RFID & retail requires a collaborative effort from retailers around the globe

There is a lot of discussion occurring on some of the blogging sites about whether the U.S. or Europe will win the “RFID retail race.” There is clearly a lot of work going on in both regions, and the general feeling is that the momentum has shifted to U.S. retailers after a strong start in the EU by pioneering retailers like Gerry Weber and Charles Vogele.

The momentum shift in the U.S. began to occur late last year when the Item Level RFID Initiative was announced in November. The goal of the group, which includes retailers like Walmart, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Dillard’s, is to further accelerate item level tagging by publishing industry guidelines and business case roadmaps for return on investment for retailers and suppliers.

Momentum in the U.S. grew stronger last month when Macy’s announced it will begin tagging $8 billion worth of inventory in 2012.

However, in order for item level tagging to become ubiquitous around the globe, a collaborated effort is required by retailers around the globe. It matters not if the U.S. reaches 100 percent saturation before EU retailers do, or if Macy’s goes chain wide six months before a European retailer. By working together, retailers will only broaden the technology’s acceptance and accelerate the adoption curve.

In an interview with RFID 24-7 earlier this year, Gerry Weber CIO Christian von Grone explained his desire to collaborate with his North American retail counterparts.

“We have a similar situation in Europe with two or three different initiatives just coming from the ground where industry partners are joining to see what we can we do about RFID in Europe,” he said at the time. “We are part of two of those initiatives. Some of the members of the ally would like to coordinate our efforts (with the U.S.) because in the long run we all meet at the same suppliers in China.”

That is the key point. In many cases, retailers may be separated by thousands of miles, but rely on the same overseas manufacturers. A global effort to accelerate the use of RFID would only help to push tagging to the point of manufacture – something that must occur for item level tagging to become ubiquitous.

The U.S Item Level Initiative has yet to commit to allowing overseas retailers into the group. However, one of their strongest advisors has suggested that they do.

“The Item Level RFID Initiative should include all retailers and brand owners,” says Bill Hardgrave, a well-known RFID researcher who is an advisor to the group and a Dean of the School of Business at Auburn University. “In short, I think we need to get [European retailers] involved and I hope we find a way to do it.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7’s previous coverage on item level retail tagging.

Click here to view the discussion on U.S. versus EU that started over at the RFID Arena blog.

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