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RFID Steps Up Display Accuracy in Shoe Department

A European retailer has deployed an RFID-based inventory-management system from TAG Co. that links a tagged display shoe to its box in the back room, and can also detect if a style or color of shoe is missing from the display.
By Claire Swedberg

If one of the shoes in that box is slated to be placed on display, a worker can select "Create Display Label," then scan the box's bar code. The software identifies the Electronic Product Code (EPC) number used for that box's label, and also prints another label for the shoe, linked to the same EPC number, but identifiable as being on display. The printer prints another label, which is attached to the shoe's sole. The display shoes are then placed on the sales floor, while the box and the display shoe's mate remain in the back room.

On a weekly basis, sales associates walk around the sales floor and through the back room with the handheld reader. They first indicate where they are reading tags, then begin capturing tag IDs. Once the process has been completed, the software compares the results against the expected inventory count, listing all items on the floor and in the back room, along with all shoe styles that are not on display but should be.

During the first week that the store completed the inventory count, it discovered that 10 percent of its shoes were not on display. Marchese says that discrepancy rate should be about zero now. One challenge for a solution like this, he notes, is that many vendors already apply their own RFID labels to shoe boxes for their own internal management systems. They can, for instance, use such tags to understand when their products ship, as well as to what retailer.

The retailer needs to use its own labels, however. Therefore, TAG Co. set up a filtering system so the software could disregard unfamiliar tag ID reads. The tag-placement process must also accommodate existing EPC UHF RFID tags on some products, since placing one tag on top of another can affect the new tag's read accuracy. "In the future," Marchese states, "the tagging of boxes could be done at the distribution center."

The shoes at the store now have TAG Co. EAS RFID hard tags for detection at the door, which are removed at the time of sale, as well as the inventory-management labels printed on site. The store has been utilizing the system for three weeks so far, and plans to determine, during the coming months, whether there is a corresponding sales lift for shoes due to having more accurate display shoe inventory counts.

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