RFID Talk Blog

American Apparel deploys fixed infrastructure readers

Retailer American Apparel has fully deployed RFID at its 254 stores around the world and will further utilize RFID to enable self-checkout in the upcoming months. In addition, the retail chain is piloting a fixed infrastructure reader system that will allow it to eliminate the use of handheld readers in the future.

American Apparel, which had deployed to just over 100 stores at the end of 2012, more than doubled that number over the past several months, deploying RFID at more than 100 stores in 18 countries. Stacey Shulman, vice president of technology at American Apparel, says that the company had a very strong holiday selling period due to the inventory visibility that RFID allows.

RFID at American Apparel

Handheld RFID readers will soon be a thing of the past at American Apparel stores.

“We really believed that RFID would help us during the holidays and it did,” she said. “If you check our public filing you’ll see that it definitely helped us over the holidays because the fourth quarter came in very strong across all of our channels.”

American Apparel is in the process of setting up its stores for self checkout, enabling customers to checkout from anywhere inside a store if they have an account on their mobile device. Shulman expects the self checkout system to begin rolling out at stores sometime next month.

American Apparel is also piloting a fixed infrastructure reader antenna solution that Schulman says will eliminate the need for handheld readers and allow store associates to spend less time on back room tasks and more time with customers on the sales floor. The solution is being piloted at two stores, and Shulman says that its ROI is already proven.

The system will allow American Apparel to manage its store floors by zones, and will send alerts to store associates when items need to be replenished or when an item is out of place on the sales floor. It will also generate potential theft alerts.

“The way that we are doing this is through a fixed infrastructure antenna system,” says Shulman. “We have found that we can read 35,000 units in a dense environment with 98 percent accuracy in under an hour, which is better than our handhelds.

“Obviously it saves labor. The antenna system does the inventory every night for us and when employees arrive in the morning they look at a dashboard and work in their zone. It removes the employee from focusing on the back stock and allows them to focus on making sure the sales floor is presentable and well merchandised.”

Eventually, the system can be used to track item movement every 30 seconds, so goods like jeans or blouses can be tracked moving through certain zones of the store. “We are not using that function yet, but those are the capabilities that you have with the system,” says Shulman.

“We don’t need handhelds anymore,” she says. “Our goal is to get into a hands-free environment with our staff. We want RFID technology to be invisible to them and to have our salespeople selling and focused on our customers. Between customers, they can be moving product back to where it needs to go. We don’t want them walking around with a bulky scanners on the sales floor.”

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