This weekend I witnessed another ugly retail experience resulting from poor inventory visibility. While my wife was shopping for a Vera Bradley bag for a gift, a store associate at The Paper Store said that her computer indicated that one item was available in the chosen style and color.
After searching the back room for five minutes, the store associate, who was overly courteous throughout the ordeal, began to remove every bag from the store shelf to find the one we desired.
You can probably guess the outcome. The store associate never found the bag. In most out-of-stock cases (or out-of-view, in this case), the customer leaves
the store and buys the item online or at a competing store. In this case, my wife purchased a similar bag, so The Paper Store converted a sale from what clearly was a lost revenue situation.
The Paper Store should take a lesson from American Apparel, a superstar of apparel retailing when it comes to inventory visibility. Long considered a leader in item-level tagging, American Apparel has deployed a ceiling-based reader solution from Senitron at two of its stores, achieving 100 percent read accuracy. (Click here to view RFID 24-7′s coverage on American Apparel).
Associates at these stores can now locate an item in 30 seconds or less. That’s a phenomenal advantage for retailers who make their money by turning inventory. By contrast, we spent close to 10 minutes with the store associate trying to locate that Vera Bradley bag, time that could have serviced perhaps two dozen customers at American Apparel. The solution has been so successful that American Apparel plans to deploy it at 50 more stores.
Dov Charney, the CEO and founder of American Apparel, understands the advantages that come from hands-free, full-time inventory provided by RFID.
“We get accuracy that is as good or better than with hand held readers, in real-time and with less work,” Charney said in an Impinj blog piece. “We have been amazed at the effortless accuracy of the Senitron system to not only deliver counts but also item locations. This enables a wealth of possibilities in our roadmap towards a robust omnichannel shopping experience for our customers.”
Each American Apparel store has between 70 and 100 antennas mounted into the ceiling track lighting with a patent-pending quick connection system. The antennas are spaced out in an interlaced grid that varies depending on the product density and store layout. Impinj Speedway Revolution readers are also ceiling mounted and connected to multiple antennas using Impinj Speedway Antenna Hubs. The antenna system combined with Speedway readers and Antenna Hubs allows for a quick installation and consistent wide area monitoring of the entire store that also minimizes network infrastructure and power requirements.
All American Apparel products are tagged with Avery Dennison hang tags, powered by Impinj Monza chips. Usually, up to 98 percent of store products are tagged, or as many as 75,000 items per store. Aside from 100 percent store visibility, the system improves security by allowing American Apparel to monitor dressing rooms, restrooms and exits with non-visual measures.
Click here to read the Impinj blog piece about American Apparel.