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Gerry Weber Sews In RFID's Benefits

The company plans to integrate EPC Gen 2 tags into the care labels of all garments it makes, and expects to quickly recoup its cost by using the tags to track inventory and deter theft.
By Rhea Wessel
"Especially in the incoming goods receipt process, we had significant time savings," Tröger states, "because employees no longer had to manually count items or scan their bar codes to find out if an order was complete." Clerks simply scanned the bar code on the delivery note and interrogated the RFID tags in garments to match up delivery receipts with actual items shipped, he says. In addition, employees saved significant time by no longer having to attach and detach EAS security tags and take inventory.

"What's even more important is that our customers don't mind having RFID labels on their clothes," Tröger says. The company prominently displayed information regarding the use of RFID on garments—but during the field tests, he notes, it did not receive a single query about its RFID use.

Gerry Weber's board studied the test results and the business-case analysis, and decided that the retailer should adopt RFID garment-care labels for all of its apparel in 2010. It also decided it should employ RFID for EAS and other retail processes at select stores, and use the technology for select logistics processes handled by its logistics providers. Gerry Weber outsources all of its logistics to two providers.

The EAS system, which complies with EPCglobal and GS1 standards (see GS1 Releases Guidelines for RFID-based Electronic Article Surveillance), works by removing a tag's EPC ID number from the database once an item is purchased. If the EPC number is removed, an item can be taken past an EAS portal and be removed from the store without an alarm sounding.

According to Tröger, Gerry Weber chose Avery Dennison because it has been a long-time partner and was the first company capable of providing Gerry Weber with tags that met its specifications. The clothing manufacturer picked Deutsche Telekom to provide the readers and antennas, including a powerful radio antenna it designed especially for the RFID-based EAS portals at store entrances and exits. Other partners for the rollout include SALT Solutions, which is supplying the retail merchandising system and developed the software for using RFID in retail processes, and Torex, a solutions provider for the retail sector, which is integrating RFID into the cash register system.

When a tagged item is purchased, a clerk will first read the bar code on the price tag, after which the computer system activates the RFID antenna and interrogator beneath the checkout counter. The RFID system then reads the EPC number encoded to the garment's RFID tag, and removes it from the database.

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