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Fashion Retailer Leverages Virtual Shielding to Overcome Stray RFID Reads

Superdry has launched a solution from Nedap that employs the technology company's virtual shielding to prevent spill-over tag reads that had been affecting read accuracy in the retailer's previous solution.
By Claire Swedberg

"Initially, shielding was a big challenge for the Superdry stores," says Nick Markwell, Nedap's business lead for !D Cloud UK. "Without doing this, they couldn't realize the full benefits of RFID." Although the system had been rolled out at 37 stores, adds James Eastwood, Superdry's implementation manager, the company decided to pause the full rollout "to reflect on the available solutions in the marketplace."

The company's RFID team needed to ensure that it had chosen the appropriate long-term path, Eastwood recalls. Based on the shortcomings it had previously experienced with its RFID system, the firm conducted a full request for proposals, then selected Nedap as its long-term partner. The new solution relies on Nedap's !D Cloud software, while employing the same Zebra Technologies RFD 8500 handheld readers that stores had used previously to capture tag reads. The company is also employing Avery Dennison printers at its distribution centers to label any untagged goods as they are received from suppliers.

Nick Markwell
"The initial attraction with Nedap was their Virtual Shielding solution," Eastwood recalls. The foil lining and metallic painting options for shielding between the stock room and the sales floor was expensive and disruptive to stores, he says, and was not particularly effective. With Virtual Shielding, the physical shields are no longer necessary.

Virtual Shielding is a feature within !D Cloud that uses RFID read data to determine the sub-location within a store from which the tag response is received by the reader. The software can then determine where the tag is located as it is being read, and thereby eliminate the confusion of stock room tags being read by a reader in the store front, for instance.

James Eastwood
"The industry has long denied the feasibility of reliably determining individual tag locations without physical shielding," Markwell says. "However, Nedap has cracked the code on this. This significantly increases the ROI of RFID projects, making RFID financially feasible for more retailers." With Nedap's Virtual Shielding, Eastwood says, the store is able to accomplish inventory counts within approximately 25 minutes, whereas this had previously taken several hours to complete. The !D Cloud software is designed for use by store personnel for all in-store processes, such as stock counts and identifying which items need to be replenished from the stock room.

Staff members can access data using the !D Cloud app on the handheld device to view, for example, a list of which products need to be moved from the stock room to the sales floor. They can then use the app to view the locations of products and their availability within the store, both for a specific stock-keeping unit and for related products, such as those in the same size but in different colors. In addition, Markwell says, if a particular product is not available at the store, !D Cloud can help identify which nearby locations have stock of the product available.

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