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ISA Boutique Tracks Inventory, Shopper Behavior Via RFID

The Hong Kong retailer is installing CSL readers and antennas in its display cabinets and on its sales counters, so that it can track when jewelry is removed, returned and purchased.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 16, 2014

China's ISA Boutique is installing a radio frequency identification system at one of its stores, after determining that the technology provided valuable data following an initial installation at another location. The RFID readers and antennas, supplied by Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL), enables the store to track its fine jewelry and to know not only what is stocked within the cabinets, but also when a particular piece is removed from the cabinet and returned—and how often—thereby providing analytics regarding how well customers like each item.

ISA Boutique operates seven stores in Hong Kong and two in Macau, where it sells clothing, leather goods, eyewear, jewelry and watches. In 2012, the retailer began working with Alpha Solution Ltd., its point-of-sale (POS) software provider, to create an RFID-based system for inventory management, as well as for tracking shoppers' behavior and the products they seem to prefer. Alpha Solution fitted each of the store's jewelry display cabinets with a single 16-port CS468 RFID reader and a total of 16 CS790 ultra-thin RFID antennas—one for each of the reader's port. The antennas were situated on the cabinet's shelving on which trays filled with jewelry are placed.

Alpha Solution fitted ISA Boutique's jewelry display cabinets with CSL CS790 ultra-thin RFID antennas.
ISA Boutique replaced its traditional price tags with EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID labels, attaching the RFID version to each item via the tag's loop antenna. The system employs RFID tags provided by a variety of vendors, says Jerry Garrett CSL's managing director, and the store has attached those tags to hundreds of jewelry items, including rings, pendants and earrings, as well as to eyewear. Each tag's unique ID number is linked to the specific item's stock-keeping unit (SKU) in Alpha Solution's Smart Shelve software, hosted on ISA Boutique's server. It is then stored on a tray that is placed within a display cabinet during store hours.

ISA Boutique replaced its traditional price tags with EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID labels, attaching the RFID version to each item via the tag's loop antenna.
According to the company, the CS790 reader antenna is designed to provide a very tight read zone. If an item is lifted more than 12 inches above the antenna (the read range can be adjusted by raising or lowering the power setting) or moved 3 inches to the side, the shelf antenna will no longer detect its tag, and the reader data will thus indicate that the piece has been removed from the cabinet. The glass of the cabinet top also acts as a shield, so that if an item is placed on the glass counter above the antenna, its tag will not be read. This feature is especially important for ISA Boutique, as the retailer wants to know each time an item is moved from the shelf tray to be sampled by a customer, and also the exact time that it was returned to the tray. The antenna is 6 millimeters (0.2 inch) thick, and is available in a variety of lengths and widths.

The store has also installed a CSL CS203 reader with an integrated antenna at the cash register, in order to record when a piece of jewelry is purchased. The item's tag is interrogated during the sales transaction, thereby enabling the store to identify which merchandise needs to be reordered to replenish inventory.

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