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Chico's Finds RFID a Good Fit at 13 of Its Soma Intimates Stores

The technology enables the stores to track merchandise as it arrives and leaves, providing visibility into inventory levels and ensuring that customers can always find the sizes and styles they need.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 10, 2014

Women's fashion retailer Chico's FAS Inc. has completed a one-year pilot of radio frequency identification technology at 13 of its approximately 200 Soma Intimates stores, and is now planning to make those installations permanent—which may include integrating the technology with its point-of-sale (POS) system. The company is also reviewing how it might expand the solution's use to other store locations.

According to Jamie Kress, Tyco's director of sales and strategic accounts, the pilots consisted of an RFID solution provided by Tyco Retail Solutions for tracking garments at the item level when they were received from the distribution center, as they moved from the back room to the sales floor, during weekly inventory checks, at the point of sale (POS) and, finally, as they left through the front door. Tyco's TrueVue software, residing on a dedicated server, manages the collected read data, identifies when inventory requires replenishment and monitors the movements of goods throughout the store.

RFID readers installed at exits can identify any unpurchased items that leave a Soma store.
Chico's, founded in 2004, has four women's clothing brands, including Soma Intimates, a chain of clothing boutiques focused on lingerie. The company's first experience with RFID took place in 2010, when the retailer began attaching passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags to product samples, in order to track those items as they were "checked out" by company employees and then returned. Those samples are ultimately sold to staff members at a company store located at Chico's headquarters in Fort Meyers, Fla. Once the samples were being tagged, Kress says, the firm began working with Tyco in 2011 to track them within a store environment, trialing the technology and showcasing it to workers and executives. Items were tagged and a reader was installed between the back room and the sales floor, so that the company could manage the flow of merchandise to the sales area and ensure that samples were on display and available for purchase.

Following that project's completion, the company deployed an RFID system at a single Soma store in Naples, Fla., that was selected due to its close proximity to Fort Meyers, as well as the supportive, experienced sales staff at that site. In 2013, it expanded the deployment to include 12 additional stores, appointing team captains to oversee the pilots and results within districts (groups of stores). Chico's did not respond to requests for comment about the installation.

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