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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

The key to this deployment's success, Lusty notes, has been a focus on keeping the solution as simple and low-cost as possible. "The beauty of what they've done is it's highly simplistic," he states. "A lot of retailers get distracted by shiny things RFID offers. Traci [Harrington] was focused on packing accuracy improvements. Being able to put together something for a very small brand, that was highly effective but simple with a low cost of entry, has been very rewarding."

The company plans to expand the system's use in the future. For instance, Harrington says, "We're thinking to get handheld readers," which would make it easier to locate specific items being picked for an order, as well as to perform spot checks on what has been packed in each box prior to shipment.

Now that the RFID system has been deployed and the company has achieved a return on its investment, Harrington considers the process of developing and adopting the system to have been a success. "It's done exactly what we wanted it to do," she says. "It's been a very easy transition." She adds that her own company's success with RFID was an indication that "anyone can do this—you take what your needs are and make a plan from it."

For Avery Dennison, Lusty says, the SFC project demonstrates how RFID can benefit smaller companies just as well as it can larger retailers and brands. "We've taken a group that's small—it doesn't have deep pockets—and we've developed an affordable, yet scalable solution that yields a highly compelling ROI," he states. In the long term, Lusty adds, the system is still scalable. "You wouldn't want to design a solution that you're not going to be able to scale."

While many companies spend considerable time investigating, testing or waiting for technology to evolve, Southern Fried Cotton was ready to move quickly to start gaining benefits from RFID tag reads, Lusty recalls. "Within 48 hours, she [Harrington] said 'What are the next steps? How do we get started?'" Too often, brands become stuck in what he calls "analysis paralysis," he notes, adding, "To me, that's a great takeaway from [this deployment]. They were incurring chargebacks month over month, and they wouldn't be able to eliminate those until they made a change. So they decided to jump in and end the suffering."

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