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Apparel Retailers Get RFID

The VICS Item Level RFID Initiative's recent meeting and dinner revealed that great progress is being made toward the technology's adoption in retail apparel.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 16, 2012On Sunday, Jan. 15, I attended a meeting of the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association's VICS Item Level RFID Initiative (VILRI), in New York City, which was held in conjunction with the National Retail Federation's Big Show 2012 conference. VILRI is a group of end users, solutions providers and academics working to create standard ways of using radio frequency identification based on Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards within the retail apparel value chain. Nearly 100 people attended the meeting.

Cynthia DiPietrantonio, Jones Apparel's chief operations officer, described the progress made in the working groups as "astonishing." I participated in the outreach and communications group, tasked with educating retailers and suppliers about both VILRI's work and the value of employing radio frequency identification to track items from the time they are manufactured until the point of sale.


During the meeting, David Cromhout and Justin Patten, from the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center, updated members regarding the results of VILRI-sponsored research into the business case for apparel suppliers, which RFID Journal covered last month (see RFID Study Quantifies ROI for Apparel Suppliers). Representatives from Accenture updated the group about a survey of retailers and suppliers, conducted at VILRI's behest, that suggests most are ready to adopt RFID. VILRI has also succeeded in getting speakers on the agenda of a wide variety of events held by relevant organizations, including NRF and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

After the meeting, Joe Andraski, VICS' CEO, hosted a dinner for CIOs at a number of retail chains, mostly focused on apparel. I'm unable to reveal who attended or what they said, as this was a private, off-the-record gathering, but I can say that most attendees were from companies that have not publicly announced RFID initiatives—though many indicated that they had launched pilots, or even small rollouts.

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