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Rebecca Minkoff Brings Self-Service to Its SoHo Store With RFID

The fashion retailer is using technology from QueueHop to allow shoppers to select and pay for an item, then unlock its security hard tag based on RFID reads of that tag.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 23, 2016

Luxury handbag and accessories retailer Rebecca Minkoff is piloting a radio frequency identification-based self-checkout system that allows customers at its New York store to select an accessory they want, make a purchase on an Apple iPad and unlock that item's security tag so that they can leave the store without having to wait in line. The solution is provided by technology startup QueueHop in a display unit modified by Rebecca Minkoff to match the store's aesthetics. The solution consists of the self-checkout unit, which features an RFID interrogator to read a product's hard tag, an iPad mounted on the wall to accept credit-card purchases, and a slot in which the hard tag can be read via another RFID reader. The tag can then be removed after the purchase.

Rebecca Minkoff has been using RFID technology to enhance its fashion and accessories stores since it opened its first location in New York. Its SoHo store, located at 96 Greene Street, is known as the "Store of the Future" and features RFID-enabled magic mirrors in the fitting rooms that, for instance, identify a garment a shopper is trying on and display recommended products he or she could purchase to accompany it (see Rebecca Minkoff Store Uses RFID to Provide an Immersive Experience). "When we launched the Store of the Future, we had two desires," says Uri Minkoff, the fashion retailer's CEO and founder. "We wanted to offer a celebrity VIP experience [such as the personalized shopping assistance provided in the fitting rooms], and we wanted to provide a private, almost anonymous experience for those who wanted it."

The self-checkout unit features an RFID reader that interrogates each purchased product's hard tag.
The QueueHop technology enables the private anonymity of a sale, Minkoff says, along with the added convenience of reducing waits at a cash register. According to Minkoff, the store has attached the hard tags—which have built-in magnetic electronic article surveillance (EAS) technology, as well as ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags—to hundreds of its handbags, scarves and small leather goods. The long-term goal, he adds, is to include the technology for other Minkoff merchandise as well—possibly clothing, for example.

QueueHop's Lindon Gao
Early this year, the newly launched QueueHop developed its RFID-enabled hard tag, app and content-management software, says Lindon Gao, the company's CEO and cofounder. The idea for the product struck him as he waited in a long line at a store to make a purchase. "The line was incredibly long," Gao recalls, "and I was thinking, 'What can I do to remove this friction?'" After all, he says, long lines often prevent sales if customers simply are unwilling to wait.

The problem is worse for the latest generation of shoppers, Gao adds. Millennials would rather conduct transactions using their smartphones. For retailers, he notes, the problem is the security tag—they need some way to provide security, to ensure that goods do not leave the store without first being purchased. Locked hard tags traditionally require human intervention from store personnel, however, and that can mean queues.

In addition, at stores like Rebecca Minkoff, some customers simply want privacy. Uri Minkoff refers to it as the "Pretty Woman moment," when a customer at an upscale store feels intimidated—similar to how Vivian Ward, Julia Roberts' character in the film Pretty Woman, feels—fearing that associates will refuse to help her or expect her to steal something. Minkoff says he wants every customer to feel comfortable at his store, and that, in some cases, means enabling a visitor to make a purchase and leave without having to interact with associates.

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