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RFID Brings Gains to Small Apparel Brand

Southern Fried Cotton, which opted to leverage a technology more commonly deployed by big companies, has brought its customer chargeback rate down by 98.8 percent, increased its warehouse efficiency and achieved an ROI within less than a year.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 31, 2019

American clothing brand Southern Fried Cotton (SFC), a small but growing company located in South Carolina, has leveraged an RFID system to automatically capture data about what is being shipped for each order. The solution is designed to prevent errors and increase efficiency at its wholesale location in Clemson, S.C.

Avery Dennison developed and deployed the solution so SFC could identify each item as it is shipped to customers. This has not only automated the capture of data about what is shipped, but also reduced the cost of chargebacks from the company's larger retailer customers. In fact, since the system was taken live in 2017, the company reports that chargebacks have dropped by 98.8 percent, and that it has saved tens of thousands of dollars annually. SFC realized a return on its investment within about eight months.

Traci Harrington
Since being launched as a brand in 2012 (after its founders spent two decades running a graphic-design and screen-printing company), SFC has doubled its sales with a wholesale division, as well as two brick-and-mortar stores and an online shop at which it sells its products. The firm sells apparel with a southern spirit, offering design and screen printing on organic cotton T-shirts. At present, SFC has 30 employees and serves a growing customer base.

Southern Fried Cotton's wholesale efforts began in 2014 for store boutiques in South Carolina and North Carolina, and while it originally sold product with 30 retailers, that customer base is now close to 400 across 18 states. SFC's introduction to RFID came with a request to tag its products with EPC UHF RFID tags from one of its large retailer customers. However, the company saw an opportunity to benefit from the tags as well, recalls Traci Harrington, SFC's wholesale account executive.

The company had a challenge to overcome: costly chargebacks for orders that customers claimed were incorrectly packed. That cost could be as much as $100 per carton. At the same time, since SFC was growing, orders were increasing in size and packing was becoming more time-consuming. In some cases, orders consisted of numerous cartons, and if a product appeared to be missing from one carton, that item might actually be included in another box, even though a chargeback had been issued to the brand. By that point, determining whether a mistake had actually been made often proved challenging.

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