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U.K. Home Goods and Apparel Retailer Boosts Accuracy With RFID

Matalan has deployed RFID across all 220 stores to bring its inventory accuracy above 95 percent, helping to ensure that products are available for omnichannel sales.
By Claire Swedberg
May 15, 2019

U.K. fashion and homeware retailer Matalan has boosted its inventory accuracy by 30 percent, thanks to an RFID-based solution deployed across all of its 220 stores. The technology was installed and taken live following a two-store pilot, throughout the course of fewer than five months.

The system and the majority of tags were provided by solutions technology company SML. With the technology in place, the retailer has brought its inventory accuracy to more than 95 percent, enabling easy access to products for customers, whether in the store or online. The system was taken fully live in November 2018.

Like most retailers, Matalan is challenged with meeting the demand for fast delivery and easy availability of products for its customers, whether they are shopping online or browsing at stores. To provide consumers with quick access to goods ordered online, for instance, Matalan sought more accurate inventory data about which products were available at a given shopper's neighborhood store. By increasing inventory visibility, the company could better ensure that replenishment orders were placed as soon as an item was sold. RFID data also enables the company to access analytic data indicating how goods sell at specific stores, and to then adjust each site's inventory levels accordingly. Matalan has declined to comment for this story.

The company began working with SML to build a solution in early 2017, according to Dean Frew, SML's CTO and senior VP of RFID solutions. The technology was piloted at two stores between Liverpool and Manchester, in the cities of Warrington and Wigan, for a period of six months. The pilot helped the retailer test the technology and build a business case for its deployment, Frew explains. It then began rolling out the solution at 25 additional stores, then at 50 more, and eventually to all locations, in bi-weekly or monthly steps.

The solution consists of SML's Clarity software to manage read data, as well as EPC UHF RFID tags with NXP Semiconductors ICs applied to all products sold in the Matalan stores, including apparel, home goods, pillows, towels and blankets. Most products are tagged at the point of manufacture, then pass through the company's distribution center in Knowsley, England.

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