RFID Talk Blog

2011 RFID Forum day one update

Just returned from day one of the 2011 RFID Forum being held at the University of Arkansas. One thing for sure is that retailers are hot on deploying the technology.

Yet, suppliers still are not as convinced. When the Item Level RFID Initiative met at NRF in January, leaders called 2011 the year of the supplier — in other words, it was the year that supplier benefits from item level tagging would be detailed.

But some suppliers say privately that not much has happened, with one major apparel manufacturer quipping that “we’re only doing this (item level tagging) because we were asked to do it.” And that’s putting it nicely.

Yet, manufacturers do realize the potential benefits. Just as retailers gain from having better visibility into products on the retail floor, so do manufacturers, who stand to gain from more product being sold in an industry that is notorious for a short shelf life.

In addition, manufacturers can benefit during difficult economic times by using newfound inventory visibility to operate with leaner inventories.

Some other ideas floating around the event:

Retailers are quickly realizing that RFID can not only play a role in inventory accuracy, but in preventing retail shrink. This is an idea gaining more and more momentum as retailers look to cut down and eliminate employee theft occurring in the supply chain and at the store level. During a tour of the University of Arkansas RFID Research Center, several demonstrations were given about how RFID can be used to reduce shrink. (Read RFID 24-7’s previous coverage on RFID as a loss prevention solution).

One tour participant made the point that it took 10 years to fully roll out EAS tags, and that we are only in the second year of actual RFID deployment in the retail sector. In other words, it may take a while longer before the technology becomes ubiquitous.

One aspect of RFID that retailers are still unsure about is how store associates will take to the technology. Initial indications are positive, as one retailer described an onerous cycle counting process that was reduced to several minutes with RFID. “The associate said ‘this is great, now what do I do with the rest of my day?’ ” This is where retailers will benefit greatly from having associates spend more time with the customer on the retail floor. But it will take dedicated education process to achieve buy-in from associates store-wide.

Retailers continue to prepare for the emergence of the omni-channel customer, who might view products in a store and then order them online. Retailers are rushing to prepare for this segment of shopper in a variety of ways, including preparing brick and mortar stores to serve as online fulfillment centers when product is not available at specified online DCs. That scenario wouldn’t be possible without the added in-store visibility provided by RFID.

 

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