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B:MING Clothing Stores Try RFID

A solution from Fujitsu enables the Japanese retailer to track inventory from its distribution centers to its stores, and to increase efficiency at the point of sale by reading the tags of goods sold.
By Claire Swedberg
BEAMS sells a variety of BEAMS-brand apparel and accessories for men, women and children. It recently launched its new B:MING Life Stores, oriented toward families and intended to make shopping fun for kids and their parents. The stores include a variety of technologies to make the shopping experience more interesting, including motion sensors that can detect when a customer stands before a large display, and then present that person's image wearing the brand's clothing. For the new store chain, BEAMS also wanted to make the purchase process simpler than at traditional stores, where workers scan bar codes and total up the sales amount for each customer. Moreover, the company sought to ensure that merchandise did not run out, and that it could be inventoried easily by the staff.

Each store's RFID installation is basically the same, involving two Fujitsu Frontech fixed readers—one installed at each POS terminal. Staff members utilize an Atid handheld reader to inspect incoming shipments, as well as to count inventory within the backroom and on store shelves. The technology is also in use at BEAMS' distribution center.

First, goods are tagged with Tentac EPC Gen 2 RFID tags at BEAMS' DC in Funabashi, Japan. Each tag stores a unique ID number linked to the product's stock-keeping unit (SKU) data, as well as the time and date, in the Glovia software residing on BEAMS' back-end system. Prior to being shipped to a BEAMS store, the tagged items pass a fixed reader on a conveyor belt, at which time the tag is interrogated before that item is packed and loaded for delivery. This read event updates the software, indicating which products are being shipped to a specific store.

Once the merchandise arrives at a store, staff members unpack boxes and read each tag via an Atid RFID interrogator prior to placing the goods on shelves in the backroom or on the sales floor. The software then updates the system to indicate which items were received, and when this occurred. To track the inventory stock in the storefront and back room, staff members carry the handheld throughout the store, capturing each tag's ID number. The stores have also applied the UHF tags to other objects, such as hangers and shopping carts, so that workers can periodically track in which parts of the store these assets are located. By reading the merchandise's RFID tags during inventory checks, employees can reduce the number of garments that end up missing or mis-shelved. Inventory counts can be accomplished in about one-fifth the time it took to perform the count manually, Ogawa says, thereby reducing logistics costs by two-thirds.

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