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Reading Books Reduces Out-of-Stocks

BGN, Holland's largest bookseller, plans to roll out RFID at its 42 stores throughout 2007 and 2008.
By Jonathan Collins
For BGN, the benefits of RFID-tagging its books don't just come from sales to customers. The company estimates that around 7 percent of the books it has in stock will ultimately have to be returned unsold to publishers. While Centraal Boekhuis supplies all the books sold in the store, it acts only as a distributor for foreign titles. These have to be returned to the original suppliers, but there is often no easily determined record of which book came from which supplier. "RFID-tagging promised to make this a problem of the past," says van der Lely.

In November, BGN will open its second RFID-enabled store in Maastricht, and the company is determined to extend the role RFID will play there, as well as drive further savings from RFID tagging. For example, RFID tags will be used for security purposes, replacing the magnetic strip that costs €0.04 apiece ($0.05), plus the labor required to put them inside every third or fourth book in a store.

Down the line, the potential exists for cashier-less point-of-sale terminals, where customers will be able to place the books they want to purchase on an interrogator, insert their credit cards and leave the store with their purchases paid for, without having to interact with staff at all. Presently, Van der Lely believes such a development remains at least two years away.

BGN is currently in negotiation with Centraal Boekhuis regarding the cost of tagging all the books it delivers to its stores, and is adamant that RFID play a role in the improvement of its operations. The company reports no regrets about the direct and speedy path it took to deploying the technology.

"We found a lot of mistakes ourselves where we hadn't thought about something, but it never hurt," says van der Lely. "When I look back to what we started to do in November and up to where we are now, using RFID is the best decision we could have made. We are so happy that the next store in Maastricht will open using RFID, and next year we will put a lot of money into converting all our stores [to use RFID]."

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