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First RFID Item-Level Tagged Store Opens

Yesterday Dutch book retailer Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN) opened what it calls the world's first item-level tagged store. Every book in the Almere, Netherlands-based SmartStore has a Rafsec Gen2 tag attached to it. Another item-level tagged BGN SmartStore is slated to open in October. Progress Software led the deployment.
Apr 26, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 26, 2006—Yesterday Dutch book retailer Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN) opened what it calls the world's first item-level tagged store. Every book in the Almere, Netherlands-based SmartStore has a Rafsec Gen2 tag attached to it. Another item-level tagged BGN SmartStore is slated to open in October. Publicly-traded application infrastructure software provider Progress Software of Bedford, Massachusetts, led the deployment. RFID Update spoke with Jan Vink, BGN's IT director, about the item-level tagging initiative and its benefits.

RFID tags are affixed to books bound for the BGN SmartStore at a third-party distribution center, and an advanced shipping notice (ASN) is compiled and electronically sent to the SmartStore. When the shipment of books is received at the store, the boxes pass through an RFID tunnel, which checks their contents against the ASN, reporting any errors or discrepancies. The books are then unpacked from their boxes and placed across the store's 800 shelves, per the usual process. The labor-savings afforded by the RFID tunnel is dramatic, said Vink, and will contribute to "savings in the millions". Additional savings will come from the ability to take store inventory in about a fifth of the time it used to require. Armed with handheld RFID readers, store workers can inventory the entire store in about an hour and a half; the previous book-by-book process done by manual bar code scanning took a full day. That new efficiency will allow BGN to increase the inventorying frequency by a factor of 50, from once per year to once per week.

Other, indirect benefits will derive from what BGN expects is an improved shopping experience. Shoppers will no longer have to seek help from store staff when searching for books, as before. Instead, using Progress' EasyAsk application, they can search store inventory at kiosks located in the store or from home using BGN's website. The new ease with which customers can locate their desired books will lead them to buy more, believes BGN. "I expect that finding the product quite easily will contribute 10% to 15% [of BGN's total revenue this year]," said Vink. Further enhancing the shopping experience, customers can opt to be notified by email or SMS when a desired out-of-stock book becomes available. Lastly, BGN hopes that the tagging initiative will simply bolster its brand. "This pioneering set of applications will go far to enhance the strength of the BGN brand with book buyers," said Vink.

The company took a preemptive approach with respect to privacy concerns. It developed flyers to inform customers about the RFID tags, and it made the considered decision not to associate book purchases with individual customer information. Lastly, tags can be easily killed or removed at checkout, eliminating any possibility that they might be read or otherwise used post-purchase.

Read the full announcement from Progress Software
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