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American Apparel, Postmates Use RFID Visibility for On-Demand Delivery

Postmates is offering one-hour delivery of the clothing company's products in 31 cities, using RFID data that tells shoppers which goods are available within their geographical area.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 28, 2016

Consumers who use Postmates' on-demand delivery service now have the opportunity to buy core products from American Apparel. The service takes advantage of the passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags that American Apparel attaches to all of its merchandise, enabling Postmates to identify which items are available within an individual customer's geographic area.

On Mar. 21, Postmates began offering American Apparel products from 79 of the garment company's stores across 31 metropolitan U.S. markets, says Thoryn Stephens, American Apparel's chief digital officer. While Postmates delivers products from other retailers that don't use RFID, Stephens says, it would be challenging since such a company would lack a clear idea of which products are in stock at which location on any particular day.

American Apparel's Thoryn Stephens
Postmates is designed to provide online shoppers with products, including restaurant meals, groceries and office supplies, within an hour of purchase. The Postmates app enables consumers to use their smartphones to order products easily and receive them quickly. American Apparel is the first clothing retailer partner of Postmates to be available through the app. Individuals can select from approximately 50 core items for men and women, including socks, T-shirts and hoodies. Postmates charges a $1.99 fee for delivery.

Typically, Postmates can assume that product inventory is available with regard to such partners as restaurants and coffee shops, but in the case of stores at which a limited quantity of products—clothing, for instance—are sold and replenished, inventory may not always be available, making it difficult to sell through a fast delivery service. With the use of RFID, however, Postmates indicates that inventory data will be more accurate, and the process of delivering the purchased merchandise to a customer will be 15 to 20 minutes faster. When a shopper places an order, the closest American Apparel store automatically receives a message about that order, and can thus have the requested items ready for pickup within a few minutes. A store employee can use a handheld RFID reader to quickly locate the ordered goods, and then check them out as sold, via the Postmates system.

American Apparel has used EPC UHF RFID tags on all of its products for several years, Stephens says, at all of its retail stores throughout more than 18 countries. RFID hangtags, made with RFID inlays supplied by Avery Dennison and LS Industrial Systems, are applied to American Apparel's products at the point of manufacture. The company is using RFID readers to manage all transactions at the store that add or remove merchandise from inventory, he says, with three fixed UHF RFID reader portals installed within each store—one at the point of sale, a second for receiving products in the back room and a third for tracking the replenishment of goods on the sales floor.

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