RFID also Moves into Fashion Retail

From 19 to 21 February 2013 the world of retail will meet in Düsseldorf for EuroCIS – the Leading Trade Fair for Retail Technology. Some 240 exhibitors from 25 nations will be presenting their latest retail-specific solutions in Düsseldorf.

Once again the central themes at EuroCIS 2013 will include products and services revolving around RFID. The spread of this radio technology – ensuring goods can be identified all along the value added chain without physical or line of sight contact – is being particularly pushed in the clothing sector, also internationally. There are a variety of reasons for this:

– Falling prices for the hardware and RFID tags along with greater performance and range

– The pressure of competition in the sector and thus the need to operate with as low as possible capital investment – which requires accurate stock control  and a very clear overview of inventory and its localisation

– A strong rise in the number of planned launches of RFID at internationally, but also regionally  operating retailers – which encourages other potential imitators to also invest in RFID

– The cost-reducing link between RFID and anti-shoplifting technology

“This is why RFID technology is seeing ever greater practical application after its initial test phase,” reports Klaus Schmid, Vice President Central Europe at Checkpoint Systems, Heppenheim. Checkpoint is a specialist in RFID tagging, tunnel reader systems, “smart” packing tables, picking control, goods dispatch sluices and anti-shoplifting technology. The company has announced a new tag solution where the RFID radio chip is incorporated so as to no longer compromise product value in any way. Here with Checkpoint’s so-called RFID graphics tag an extremely thin RFID inlay is added between the two sides of a conventional graphics tag. This means only one tag is needed for the brand’s logo and RFID data. Also on the agenda are new RFID tunnel solutions. These will convey the goods quicker through the RFID tunnel than before without any compromise to the reading performance of the RFID scanners inside.

A widening use of RFID is also being observed at Motorola Solutions in Idstein – especially in the higher priced segment and in goods entry processes. “Thanks to on-going further development of RFID technology today’s solutions are ever more versatile,” says Norbert Rickert, Sales Director Central Europe, describing the development. For instance, with RFID it is now possible to reliably identify items even in tightly packed boxes.

Motorola acts as a supplier of RFID reader devices including stationary and mobile RFID readers, RFID antennas and corresponding device management. Their customers include internationally operating companies like American Apparel who track goods using RFID solutions all along the supply chain at the level of individual articles. Rickert also reports of a well-known jeans manufacturer who has also started to put RFID tags on its products.

Alongside the aforementioned RFID applications like inventory management and anti-shoplifting systems the aspect of “Information & Analysis/Business Intelligence” is now playing an increasing role. “The data generated by RFID reader points can now be intelligently evaluated and analysed more than ever before,” explains Tom Vieweger, Key Account Manager at Enso Detego, a company specialised in software products and solutions revolving around the implementation of RFID. Range optimisation and the avoidance of waste are among the objectives here. Vieweger is convinced that RFID will develop into a standard technology in the field of inventory and replenishment management

The “next step” will be linking RFID technology with cloud computing. Here software solutions no longer have to be purchased by users in retail and implemented in their own company but are available on an external server on a sort of rental basis. “The cost and investment reductions associated with this will also help make RFID pay off for more small retailers than before,” says a convinced Vieweger.

According to Rüdiger Hulla, Project Manager at the IT supplier Futura Retail Solution, Stelle/Hamburg, the possibilities offered by RFID are far from being fully exploited. He predicts: “When retailers know where each individual item is located at any given time aspects like age assessment and optimum goods presence offer the greatest potential.” Hulla also assumes that RFID will in future open up new avenues in terms of addressing customers in a more targeted way. Futura-Lösungen have supported all the application options of RFID used so far in retail from labelling to anti-theft devices. At the EuroCIS fair the company will be demonstrating, amongst other things, how to link RFID with mobile checkouts.

It is large companies like Wal-Mart, Gerry Weber, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Adler, GAP and Levi’s whose RFID activities or plans are causing a stir. However, at Höltl Retail Solutions, Bad Hersfeld, an RFID pioneer amongst IT suppliers for retail, they are also observing an increased interest in RFID among SMEs. “The new options include the integration of data from the electronic product code (EPC) used in RFIDs into the familiar electronic data interchange (EDI) between trade and industry. This will provide additional efficiency in this communication chain,” argues Höltl Managing Director Johannes Schick. The expert also points out that RFID will deal much more intelligently with the tricky retail topic of “customer complaints”. “The RFID radio chip makes it possible for an article to be clearly identified when a customer brings it in for exchange.” The consequence: customers can exchange the product without a hitch even if they do not have the receipt.

However, the basis of RFID, i.e. the coding of information within the EPC (Electronic Product Code) for the identification of individual items, is now not only being used just to track and identify goods. For instance, with the support of IBM Deutschland, Metro subsidiary Real is now using an electronic coupon system in all German outlets for payback transactions. The electronic coupons that customers present at the checkout on their mobile phone can be clearly identified thanks to a barcode that an EPC presents in coded form. “This means tried and tested RFID infrastructure can enter the field of retail marketing as the EPC can be used not only for identifying real goods but for digitalised information carriers like electronic coupons,” explains Frank Schmid, Senior Management Consultant at IBM. At EuroCIS the company will be presenting solutions of this kind under the “Smarter Commerce und Mobility” heading.

EuroCIS 2013 will be open to trade visitors daily from Tuesday, 19, to Thursday, 21/02/2013, from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. Day tickets cost Euro 22 (Euro 15 when purchased online in advance) and two-day tickets cost Euro 38 (Euro 27 online in advance). Students and trainees pay Euro 10. All admission tickets include free travel to and from the exhibition on public transport with the VRR network.

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