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River Island to Deploy RFID Across All 280 Stores

The installation—using handheld readers, software and an app provided by Nedap—focuses only on inventory counts throughout each store, in order to trigger replenishment orders.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 07, 2016

Fashion retailer River Island is rolling out a radio frequency identification solution at all 280 of the stores it owns and operates. The retailer will track all of the garments it sells within the 280 stores, which are located in United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, using tags applied by suppliers.

However wide-scale the deployment may be, though, the RFID system's use case is concentrated on only a single process, says Jon Wright, River Island's head of global loss prevention and safety. The deployment—consisting of the !D Cloud EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution from Nedap Retail, based in the Netherlands—will initially monitor only the overall inventory levels within each store, and thereby enable a more accurate automated replenishment, with the goal of boosting sales.

The deployment follows a multi-phase pilot carried out at a total of seven stores during the course of several years. According to the company, the pilot showed that the RFID technology raised River Island's inventory accuracy to 97 percent, while also significantly boosting sales.

A River Island employee uses a Nedap !D Hand 2 reader paired with a smartphone to take inventory of merchandise on a store's sales floor.
River Island has taken a systematic approach to its RFID deployment, Wright explains, beginning with identifying the best use case and testing it at several stores, then measuring the results and planning how to roll out the technology in stages.

Wright joined the company three years ago to lead its global loss-prevention efforts, bringing a background in RFID. From the outset, he says, he planned to investigate how the technology could benefit the retailer by improving its inventory accuracy, in order to increase sales and enable omnichannel purchases via the internet. The company considered multiple RFID vendors before choosing Nedap, but found that the solutions they offered were too rigid for River Island's requirements. While most retailers seek to deploy the system for multiple functions, he adds—such as loss prevention, expediting transactions at the point of sale or tracking goods moving from the stock room to the sales floor—River Island wanted to start with a simpler approach.

"We decided the best approach was to be laser-focused on what would provide the biggest bang for our buck," Wright says—and the function that provided the most impact, he notes, would be full store stock levels (as opposed to tracking where goods were located within the store). By having sufficient product at each location, River Island expects to reduce the risk of sales losses by triggering automatic replenishment orders when inventory for any given stock-keeping unit (SKU) drops to a certain level.

River Island's pilot RFID deployments diverged from the approach taken by many retailers in terms of selecting which SKUs to tag. While some RFID technology vendors recommend beginning with an RFID pilot that involves the tagging of certain fast-moving products, Wright says, such an approach would not have been effective at River Island's stores. That, he explains, is because fast-moving items like denim jeans tend to be stocked in higher volumes at stores, in order to prevent out-of-stocks so those goods are rarely missing from store shelves.

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