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European Retailers Lead the Way

Companies in Europe have been the most aggressive in deploying radio frequency identification.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 06, 2015

Retailers worldwide have been adopting radio frequency identification. Brascol, a wholesale outlet in Brazil, consumes 70,000 passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID tags daily, making it one of the largest item-level deployments to date. U.S. retailers are beginning to warm up to RFID. But European retailers have been the most aggressive in deploying the technology.

At Inditex's annual general meeting, in July, Pablo Isla, the chairman and CEO of the Spain-based multinational clothing retailer, unveiled ambitious expansion plans for using RFID. One of the world's largest fashion groups, Inditex operates more than 6,300 stores worldwide, and its brands include Zara (its biggest division), Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Pull&Bear and Stradivarius. The group owns the majority of its stores, and designs and manufactures almost all its clothing.

Illustration: iStockphoto
Isla reported that RFID is already being used at all Zara's distribution centers and more than 700 of the approximately 2,000 Zara stores within 22 countries. He added that his company plans to install the technology at all Zara stores by 2016, with a gradual rollout across the rest of its chains.

The company has already implemented RFID at all its stores throughout Spain, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Austria. It has also deployed the technology at some of its stores in Italy, France, Poland, the United States, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria and Croatia. By the end of 2014, Isla said, the firm expects to add Hungary, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia to the list of countries in which all its Zara stores have fully implemented RFID. By year-end, the company also expects to have added Canada, Greece, Mexico and Romania to the list of countries in which it has partially deployed the technology.

Last year, Marks & Spencer, another major European chain, announced plans to use RFID on all nonfood items across all its stores, and it began implementing the technology this year. During the course of 2014, other European retailers—including Decathlon, a French sporting goods manufacturer and retailer with 700 stores in 18 countries, and Asda, a U.K.-based chain owned by Walmart—jumped on the RFID bandwagon. Though these companies declined to be interviewed by RFID Journal, vendors issued press releases about their deployments.

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