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American Apparel Expands RFID to Additional Stores

A little more than a year after its ambitious foray into item-level RFID tagging at its stores, the clothing company is enjoying positive results.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Improved inventory accuracy isn't the only benefit, however. The pilot stores have also been able to reduce labor by up to 60 hours per week since installing the system, because it negates the need for taking manual inventory.

An American Apparel store maintains between 25,000 and 45,000 items in inventory, depending on each site's size and storage capacity, according to Kris Doane, technical lead for the retailer's RFID project. Thus far in the pilot, the company has consumed well over 1 million tags—and it expects the stores will use 2 million additional tags before the end of the year.

American Apparel is utilizing RFID interrogators manufactured by Motorola, as well as Vue Technology's Intellipad reader antenna, used at the point of sale to read the EPCs encoded on the tags, in order to initiate the sale transaction. Vue's TrueVue software is used at the eight existing pilot stores to manage Electronic Product Code (EPC) and inventory data. When EPC data is collected at the point of sale, the software updates the item's status from in-stock to sold.

At one of the stores soon to come online, however, American Apparel will test a different EPC and inventory-management software product—the Clarity-ARS Advanced Retail System, produced by RFID solutions provider Xterprise.

At present, Livingston says, the pilot stores are running the Vue software in parallel with Retail Pro—the point-of-sale and inventory management software American Apparel uses at its stores—and legacy business systems. But going forward, the company hopes to be able to integrate the software that manages EPC and store inventory data into those legacy systems. The Xterprise software is built on Microsoft's BizTalk Server R2 middleware, which supports standard integration tools that will enable the retailer to link the RFID system with Retail Pro.

"Once we address these integration points," Livingston states, "we'll be able to introduce the RFID system [at additional stores] more easily, and with less impact [on the on stores' IT systems]."

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