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BT Trace Brings RFID Retail Solutions Customized to User

The British company's customers include a global luxury retailer that is using the technology to ensure stores in North America and elsewhere are properly stocked with inventory.
By Claire Swedberg

During the pilot, the retailer found that two workers could use the handhelds to count an inventory of 50,000 items within 45 minutes. The stores also found that customers were buying more items per transaction, presumably because a greater number of products, in the proper size, color or style, were available on the shelves.

According to Sherry, the BT Trace for Retail solution includes several features aimed at making item-level tagging in the retail sector more successful. For each of its clients, the company completes a professional services study utilizing what Sherry calls a comprehensive and sophisticated modelling tool to determine what that customer needs, and what would meet those requirements effectively and inexpensively.

"That's one thing that's driven success for us," Sherry states, "and for the adoption of RFID."

BT Trace urges its clients to employ a variety of EPC tags to fit the form factors of garments and their labels, rather than become locked into working with a specific tag vendor. Often, Sherry says, retailers focus too heavily on the cost of the RFID software, "but that's one-tenth of the investment. Most of the money is going into the tags." As such, he notes, ensuring that the lowest-cost tags are used effectively is critical. The global retailer that piloted the system at five of its North American stores took advantage of that option, using multiple vendors—not only for tag size and shape, but also for cost.

The RFID company says it focuses on a holistic approach that includes not only inventory tracking, but also customer engagement, both of which can be abetted by RFID technology. A single solution could be installed, for instance, to not only track the locations of goods on shelves or in backrooms, but also enable customers to view more details about particular products, or pay to purchase them.

In addition, BT Trace is offering solutions based on tagging at distribution and manufacturing points, in order to meet the retail industry's changing demands. For instance, Sherry says, fast-moving fashion (the effort to move garments quickly from the design phase to customers for a short period of time) is driving RFID's adoption at an early point in the supply chain, thereby making it possible to better understand where goods are located between factory and store. Tagging at the source also helps retailers and brands promote their ethical sourcing (proving that products were manufactured in an ethical way by ethical parties), says Alison Wiltshire, BT Trace's global propositions director for retailing and consumer engagement. In this case, companies can prove to consumers where goods were made—and, therefore, under what conditions, as well as possibly the materials and fabric treatment that might have been used.

In past years, Sherry says, various software firms have provided RFID solutions to a number of retailers that have launched pilots that, in many cases, failed to lead to full deployments because those retailers could not see a clear return on investment. In contrast, he adds, BT Trace focuses the RFID solutions it provides on a specific user's unique needs—in terms of both hardware and software requirements and scaleability—for a holistic approach that addresses inventory management, customer engagement, supply chain management and, finally, ethical sourcing.

BT Trace, Sherry reports, is presently in various phases of deployment of such solutions with multiple retailers.

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