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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

Instead, for its first phase—a three-month, three-store pilot deployment that took place approximately two years ago—River Island attached RFID tags to every clothing item (non-jewelry accessories were not tagged) at each store. The retailer's distribution center in Milton Keynes, England, segregated those goods going to the three locations, then tagged them with bar-coded labels made with Alien Technology Higgs 4 RFID chips and provided by Byways Group. River Island used Nedap's !D Cloud software hosted on a cloud-based server, which collected inventory data from the retailer's own management software. Store employees utilized a Nedap !D Hand 2 reader in conjunction with Nedap's !D Cloud app running on Android-based mobile devices to perform inventory counts of the tagged merchandise.

The tags were read during weekly inventory checks, as well as on occasions when a customer returned a tagged product. For inventory counts, the !D Cloud app displayed the number of items for each SKU whose tags had been interrogated, along with what was missing, based on what should be onsite according to the retailer's own software. The !D Hand 2 reader captured the tag ID numbers and forwarded that data to the Android device via a Bluetooth connection. The app updated the inventory information and transmitted that data to the cloud-based server. The !D Cloud software then shared the inventory count data with River Island's stock-management software, so that replenishment orders could be placed automatically.

During inventory counts, the !D Cloud app displays the quantity of items for each SKU.
In the case of returned products, if the RFID tag were still attached to a garment or piece of jewelry, store personnel would simply read that item's tag ID and update the status as returned. If there were no label attached, they would then program a new RFID label with the !D Hand 2 and attach it to that product, which would then be returned to the sales floor.

River Island had three key performance indicators (KPIs) for the pilot. It sought to achieve a 95 percent stock level accuracy at each store, increase sales and receive positive feedback from workers regarding products' in-store availability. After three months, Wright reports, River Island had accomplished all three goals. The company then removed the technology and observed that the KPIs decreased to previous levels once the system was no longer in place. It later held another three-month pilot at three different stores, handing responsibility for the system's use and data management over to a team of employees at each location. During phase three, the company tested the system at a flagship store and developed a methodology to test whether the sales increase was, indeed, the result of RFID technology—such as tracking sales rates for each SKU and checking to see if sales gaps (caused by goods being out of stock) were eliminated.

The company has now entered phase four, consisting of a full rollout to all 280 stores, with about three sites already having taken the system live. The goal is to deploy the RFID technology at all stores by the end of 2017, the company reports, using RFID labels made with Impinj Monza R6-P RFID chips. The retailer plans to install the solution at most of its stores between May and October. The distribution center is still tagging goods already located at its facility. However, River Island's suppliers are now also applying RFID tags to goods they ship to the DC, and those products are expected to be in the supply chain or in stores by May, at which point the DC will no longer need to tag merchandise itself.

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