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Wal-Mart Canada Making RFID Progress

Twenty Wal-Mart stores in Canada are collecting RFID data, helping to eliminate overstocks; the retailer will study the impact of harsh winter weather on RFID equipment.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 27, 2007With 20 stores equipped with RFID readers and a dozen suppliers tagging shipments of goods bound for those stores, Wal-Mart Canada's nascent RFID deployment is up and running, said Nicole O'Connor, director of the organization's information systems division, at the opening keynote of the second annual RFID Journal LIVE! Canada conference in Toronto, Ontario. And while the scope of Wal-Mart Canada's RFID deployment is dwarfed by that of its U.S. parent company—which involves more than 1,000 stores and 600 suppliers—that doesn't mean the technology's potential impact on the 278-store Canadian chain is insignificant.

"We've done some estimates into what the impact [of adopting RFID] would be to Wal-Mart globally, and it's in the millions of dollars," O'Connor told attendees. Wal-Mart Canada, she said, is focused on using RFID technology to eliminate product out-of-stocks as an initial area of benefit.

Nicole O'Connor
Each RFID-equipped Canadian Wal-Mart store is now reading tagged cases of product moving through its loading docks, as the cases are brought onto and off the sales floors, and as the empty cases are placed into box crushers. In addition, some of the dozen suppliers involved in the RFID implementation are tagging the displays used for showcasing promotional products, to improve visibility into whether the displays are being moved to the sales floor according to schedule.

Thus far, O'Connor indicated, the equipment is performing well, with a 99.5 percent read rate since the stores began reading tags this summer. While the company has not yet gathered definitive data regarding out-of-stock reductions or sales lift based on its RFID use, it has seen a 42 percent reduction in manual orders placed by store associates across the 20 stores using RFID, according to Michael Vitalei, Wal-Mart Canada's RFID strategy manager.

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