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Retailer Rolls Out RFID Across 1,000 Stores This Year

The Foschini Group has committed to deploying RFID technology across its brands throughout South Africa and beyond, beginning with its Markham menswear brand, in order to bring inventory accuracy above 95 percent.
By Claire Swedberg

The solution consists of sticker labels from Intelligent Label Solutions (ITL) with built-in UHF RFID Tageos inlays that are affixed to hangtags on the garments. These are being read by store associations using Zebra Technologies handhelds.

For the deployment, all goods are being tagged at the source, so as each product is made, a label (provided by ITL) is attached to a hangtag. The unique ID number encoded on that tag is linked to data about the product itself, including its stock-keeping unit (SKU). The tagged product is then shipped to the distribution center. Once the tagged item is received at the store, sales associates can read its tag to create an automated record of what is available onsite, enabling workers to easily count stock on a regular basis.

The focus is only on inventory management for now. "Other benefits are enticing," McCann told attendees—smart mirrors, for instance—but TFG's mantra, she said, has been "low complexity, high return." The Markham brand was selected for the initial deployment, she said, its high replenishment rate posing an opportunity for more effective inventory management.

With the Markham products now being fully tagged at the source, the company is expanding the system to its sporting goods division, followed by multi-brand goods. The company plans to give each of its brands a three-month pilot before fully deploying the technology. It is also in the early planning stages for cosmetics and jewelry tracking. The next step may be to retrofit distribution centers to capture RFID data for logistics purposes. At one DC, a proof-of-concept will be under way, later this year, to read the tags of inbound stock arriving from suppliers. The tags can be read again as goods leave the center, providing an audit of product movement throughout the facility.

Since the system was taken live, TFG has found that stock accuracy has improved, and store teams have been freed to deliver more customer assistance, instead of counting stock. With this improved inventory accuracy, the company is now able to ensure appropriate replenishments as goods are sold. "Our ERP system drives our replenishment models," McCann said, "and with RFID delivering stock accuracy in-store, we are automatically responding to the needs of the store as a result of accurate data."

Sales performance received an unexpected lift based on the technology's use as well, McCann said. "It opened our eyes to the potential of not spending a week on biannual stock takes," she added, allowing the sales force to "focus on responding to the needs of our customers." In the future, the stores' point-of-sale system will be integrated with the RFID solution so that tag reads can be captured as goods are sold. The company intends to complete the rollout across all stores.

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