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CentrObuv Finds RFID a Good Fit for Shoes

The Russian footwear retailer is using an item-level RFID system from Avery Dennison to track inventory, sales and security at one of its Moscow stores, and at a corresponding distribution center.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 06, 2012Russian footwear retail chain CentrObuv is employing EPC RFID tags on shoes at one of its Centro stores in Moscow, as well as at a local distribution center, in order to improve inventory visibility automatically, thereby freeing up staff members while also improving accuracy. In addition, the shoe and boot company is testing the technology for point-of-sale (POS) and electronic article surveillance (EAS) applications within the store, and plans to install an RFID-enabled kiosk for consumers to access information regarding specific shoe styles. Considering the success of the initial installation—which began as a trial late last year—CentrObuv expects to expand the solution's use to all of its stores, though a timeline for that expansion has yet to be determined.

Until now, few Russian retailers or their customers have had much experience using radio frequency identification. In fact, CentrObuv may be one of the first businesses to employ Electronic Product Code (EPC) tags on its products, according to Francisco Melo, the VP of global inventory accuracy and loss prevention at Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS). CentrObuv is adopting the technology, in part, to manage its rapid growth throughout the country—in terms of both the number of stores, and the sales revenue generated at those locations.

The Russian footwear retailer is attaching EPC UHF RFID tags to shoes at one of its Centro stores in Moscow.

"Our growth rate during the last five years has never been lower than 35 percent," says Marcin Tokarz, CentrObuv's commercial director. The company's 2011 revenue was more than $1 billion, he reports, and the retail chain had 800 stores by the end of last year, with 265 new locations opening in 2011. This year, the retailer plans to open 371 additional stores. "We offer high-quality footwear at a low price, and we can see that our consumers value that." Altogether, he says, the company must track more than 2,500 stock-keeping units (SKUs) of shoes and related apparel through its DCs and stores.

With such growth, Tokarz says, the company hopes to improve its inventory-management efficiency, increase its stock-counting accuracy and free up employees from the laborious process of tracking inventory. "The key advantages that we hope to gain from implementing RFID technology," he states, "are the solutions to these challenges—and, as a result, an overall improvement in business efficiency."

The system that the company has chosen to deploy, provided by Avery Dennison RBIS, is known as Quickstart, with software provided jointly by Avery Dennison and Portuguese RFID company Creativesystems. The solution consists of EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags attached to one shoe in each pair, and Motorola Solutions readers to capture each tag's unique ID number, which is linked to SKU data in the back-end system.

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