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European Co-op Tries Out Various Options for Tagging Shoes

ANWR Group is attaching an RFID tag to each shoe in every pair, as well as to the box in which footwear is sold, to learn how EPC UHF RFID tags can improve inventory tracking, theft reduction and sales transactions.
By Claire Swedberg

ANWR is currently testing different RFID printers and readers onsite, while Syspro, an IT solutions company, is providing the software that stores the tag IDs and manages the collected read data. At the smaller store, ceiling-mounted RFID readers with integrated antennas are being tested to capture real-time data regarding the locations of tagged shoes on the sales floor. In addition, store employees will use handheld RFID readers to conduct inventory counts and compare them with data from the ceiling readers. They can also utilize the handhelds when searching for a particular shoe for a customer. For instance, if a shopper selects a shoe from the sales floor, a worker can use the handheld in the back room to locate and confirm the correct mate and box for that shoe.

At the point of sale, countertop RFID readers are being employed to capture the ID numbers of the shoes and boxes, as well as to confirm that the proper items (left and right shoes) are in the correct box. The system also creates a record of the purchase.

ANWR Group's Harald Krug
An RFID reader portal has been installed at each store entrance, in order to track how well tags can be interrogated as they pass through the doorway. If the reader detects a pair of shoes that has not been purchased, the software can trigger an alert.

At the larger store, ANWR is also testing an RFID-reading robot for inventory-counting applications.

The proof-of-concepts are taking place at the same time that ANWR Group is meeting with members of GS1 Germany and several other global GS1 groups, to determine how standards may be improved with regard to the tagging and tracking of shoes.

Until now, Krug says, manufacturers have been reluctant to tag the shoes they sell due to the cost of tags and the perceived lack of benefit the manufacturer gains. He hopes that by proving RFID technology provides benefits for all in the footwear supply chain, ANWR Group will convince manufacturers of the value RFID offers.

In the future, ANWR Group may use the proof-of-concept to advise retailers about what kind of RFID system they might want to install, and what the costs and return on investment might be.

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