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Decathlon Sees Sales Rise and Shrinkage Drop, Aided by RFID

The French sporting goods retailer is using RFID technology at all of its stores and warehouses.
By Claire Swedberg

In July 2013, Decathlon began applying tags to all of its Passion brand products in the factories, and then tracking those items through some distribution centers and into RFID-enabled stores. Beginning in spring 2014, nearly all of Decathlon's other products were tagged at its logistics centers and then tracked as they left those centers, as well as in the stores.

By the second half of 2014, more than 800 of Decathlon's stores were fully RFID-enabled and had changed their processes to include reader use for inventory counts, sales transactions and electronic article surveillance (EAS) security gates. All goods manufactured by Decathlon are RFID-tagged at the factory (merchandise not made by Decathlon is tagged at the logistics centers). The logistics centers are using Embisphere readers in multiple ways, including reading the tags of goods as they arrive in cartons as well as when they are shipped to a store. Decathlon also applies RFID-enabled EAS hard tags supplied by Checkpoint Systems and a variety of other vendors to high-value items that are at high risk for theft.

Some of Decathlon's logistics centers have an Embisphere RFID reader installed at the sorter, to capture the goods' tag IDs so that workers can verify whether they are shipping the correct items.
Embisphere is in charge of Decathlon's RFID label management efforts, including the selection of label suppliers, as well as overseeing the quality-control and multisourcing of those labels. Embisphere also defines and specifies the technical solutions in stores and logistics centers.

Decathlon's stores are utilizing RFID labels provided by three suppliers: Checkpoint Systems, Avery Dennison and SML Group.

Checkpoint announced its partnership with Decathlon in November. The company says it can deliver RFID labels to Decathlon locations within five days of an order. Su Doyle, head of Checkpoint's RFID industry programs, says her company offers inlay design and testing services in North American and European RFID labs, as well as tag production plants located close to manufacturing centers. Checkpoint also features an automated ordering system, Doyle says, "that connects retail brands directly with suppliers and is accessible from any smartphone or Web browser."

Decathlon's Jean-Marc Lieby
Once an RFID label is applied to an item, its encoded ID number is linked to that product's stock-keeping unit (SKU). That information is then stored in Decathlon's own software dedicated to the RFID-based inventory-tracking data.

Employees at some logistics centers use an Embisphere reader on a moveable cart that can be rolled through rows of products in order to capture inventory updates. Some logistics centers also have an Embisphere reader installed at the sorter, where workers place goods that are then packed in cartons for specific store shipments. That reader can capture the items' tag IDs and forward that data to the software, so that personnel can view whether they are shipping the correct products to each store.

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