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Staff Jeans to Introduce RFID-enabled Customer Services

Already using EPC Gen 2 tags at the item level in its factories and DC, the Greek clothing company is expanding its use of the technology to offer garment information and shopping suggestions at its flagship store.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 01, 2010Staff Jeans, a Greek clothing company that already employs radio frequency identification to track apparel at the item level in its factories and DC, is expanding its use of RFID to include value-added services at the point of sale at the company's biggest store, in Athens. The firm is adding an intelligent-shopping function that works with RFID-enabled in-store video screens, as well as an RFID-based checkout system and an RFID-based product-authentication solution for returns.

The company initially implemented RFID in late 2008 for warehouse management—specifically, to automate receiving, picking and shipping processes at a distribution center in the city of Larissa—according to Panos Dimitropoulos, the managing partner of SENSAP, the project's integrator. After redesigning the system in 2009 and achieving read rates of 99.5 percent, he says, Staff Jeans opted to expand the application in early 2010, and now tags all items it produces. The company has spent the last six months fine-tuning and optimizing the use of mobile readers for its picking and packing processes, as well as optimizing the RFID system for processing the higher volume of tagged goods. Dimitropoulos estimates that Staff Jeans will use 800,000 tags this year.

To ensure that it could read the RFID tags of all garments packed in boxes, Staff Jeans installed an RFID tunnel with near- and far-field antennas.

The next phase of Staff Jeans' RFID implementation—which began at the beginning of this month and is expected go live in March 2011—is part of the RFID ROI SME project, a European-funded project designed to demonstrate how radio frequency identification can be a productivity tool for small and midsize companies (see RFID-ROI-SME Project Promises Big Help for Small Business).

According to Arsenis Apostolakopoulos, who heads up Staff Jeans' logistics department and helped implement the project, the retailer plans to offer its customers the opportunity to avail themselves of a personal-shopping service. Shoppers will first check in for the service by picking up a passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tag that can be worn around the neck on a lanyard while they are in the store. If customers provide basic information, such as their size, they can receive specific suggestions regarding garments that might fit them. As a patron moves about the store and passes a video screen mounted on a wall, nearby Impinj Speedway readers will interrogate the RFID tag he or she is wearing, as well as the tags of any items that individual is carrying. This information will be processed in the store's back-end database, and stock photos of items will appear on the monitor to provide suggestions about what to wear with that person's selections. The company expects to set up two or three RFID-enabled monitors in the store.

When it's time to check out, a clerk will scan each item's RFID tag at the counter and make it possible for the customer to pass through an anti-theft portal without setting off an alarm, by deactivating certain elements of the tag, which will then remain in the garment after purchase. If the customer later decides to return that outfit, its tag will serve as proof that the item is original and was purchased from a Staff Jeans location.

"The tag lets us know for sure that what the customer is returning was bought in our store or online shop," Apostolakopoulos says.

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