RFID
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American Apparel deploys fixed reader system; solution eliminates need for handheld readers

Retailers continue to adopt RFID solutions as the technology matures and new solutions drive greater inventory accuracy, enhanced customer service and a faster return on investment.

American Apparel announced today that it will deploy fixed RFID antennas mounted in ceiling track lights at all of its North American stores. The wide-area RFID system fully automates the inventory process, eliminating the need for handheld readers.

Meanwhile, Tyco Retail Solutions has reported an increase in deployments this summer, with 10 leading global fashion retailers and department stores unveiling pilots or moving to full deployments. Tyco expects an additional 350 stores around the world to deploy RFID solutions this summer.

RFID at American Apparel

American Apparel is rolling out a fixed reader solution that will eliminate the use of handheld readers.

Stacey Shulman, CTO of American Apparel, says that the fully automated Senitron inventory visibility solution has significantly improved inventory accuracy and on-shelf availability. She says that American Apparel has started to deploy the RFID solution at all North American stores.

Powered by technology from Impinj, the wide-area RFID system brings immediate benefits to American Apparel’s operations by improving in-store visibility and security. The solution also eliminates manual cycle counting, which will empower in-store staff to dedicate more time to customer service and sales-related activities.

“The Senitron solution delivers on the dream of hands-free, full-time inventory visibility,” says Shulman, who discussed her plans to eliminate handheld readers with RFID 24-7 in May.

“We get accuracy levels that meet or exceed handheld readers, in real-time and with less work. We’ve 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 omni-channel shopping experience for our customers.”

American Apparel has been testing the solution for more than six months at several store locations. The automated inventory system utilizes several of Impinj’s Speedway® readers per store with each reader energizing 12 to 15 antennas via multiple Speedway Antenna Hubs.

The readers transfer information from tags into a database that provides real-time, full-store RFID coverage, including detailed tag location, 24 hours per day. By tagging 98 percent of the 75,000 products carried at each store with Impinj Monza® chips, American Apparel and Senitron leverage key benefits of Impinj’s GrandPrix™ platform to further enhance system performance.

During performance testing by American Apparel, the solution’s continuous monitoring of tagged inventory helped both staff and customers to easily locate merchandise and uncover a substantial number of missing items. This enhanced inventory visibility, in conjunction with data from point-of-sale, enables measurement of merchandising effectiveness and improves business analytics.

Senitron’s system also improved security by monitoring items in all locations of stores, including dressing rooms, restrooms and exits, through non-visual means. By automatically having complete and real-time inventory information, including item location, American Apparel staff can spend more time interacting with customers and selling.

“Retail executives and managers must know if inventory is positioned to sell at all times in order to delight customers and manage their business,” says Kambiz Saghezi, CEO of Senitron. “We are pleased to partner with Impinj to deliver continuous, automated inventory monitoring to clients such as American Apparel who want to elevate service standards in retail.”

Larry Arnstein, vice president of business development at Impinj, says that American Apparel will continue to lead when it comes to the future of RFID and retail.

“They were the first to deploy RFID chain wide with near 100 percent tagging and handheld cycle counting,” he says. “With the help of Senitron, they are leading again in the move to hands-free methods that deliver even more value with less effort.”

Meanwhile, Tyco sees continued growth in retail RFID solutions. In January, Tyco said it expected to double the 1,000 retail locations using its technology by this fall. The company also said it would ship more than 750 million of its Sensormatic brand RFID tags (with the ability to be re-circulated) by this fall, representing growth of more than 250 percent.

While Tyco was unable to update those numbers as the fall approaches, the company expects that continued growth will push RFID to hit critical mass in the apparel sector.

“We have not yet reached critical mass in apparel at this point but virtually every sub-segment of apparel retailing has a lead user of item level RFID,” says Randy Dunn, Director of RFID at ADT Security Services. “Assuming these users achieve the results they are projecting, it is just a matter of time before virtually all apparel retailers will be using item level RFID in at least a portion of their business.”

Tyco doesn’t foresee any new deployments for the rest of 2013 as unveiling new IT solutions during the holiday selling season is usually taboo in retail.

“Virtually all of the retail deployment activity for the remainder of 2013 has been planned and is in some stage of execution in order to be completed in time for the holiday shopping season when making changes to store IT systems is generally off limits,” says Dunn. “We wouldn’t expect to see many more program expansions this year but we do expect that many retailers will begin their planning and budgeting processes for 2014 activity during the third and fourth quarters.”

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