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Rica Lewis Profits by Tagging Jeans

The company is using RFID to expedite orders and the taking of inventory in boutiques selling its apparel.
By Rhea Wessel
Jan 26, 2010Rica Lewis, a French clothing manufacturer specializing in jeans, is employing radio frequency identification to boost sales and improve customer relations by outfitting its traveling salespeople with RFID readers so they can conduct quick inventories during store visits.

Instead of spending one hour counting merchandise in an in-store boutique to determine which sizes and styles are in stock and which require replenishment, a Rica Lewis salesperson can use a handheld reader to interrogate the RFID tags on all of the boutique's garments in only 10 minutes. This frees up that salesperson, and enables more interaction with the customer (the retailer) and a greater focus on sales. The data that the salesperson collects on the interrogator is moved to a laptop computer, and then transmitted to the company's server via GPRS, so that replenishment orders can be processed immediately.

EPC Gen 2 passive tags are embedded in garment labels.

RFID solutions provider Tagsys supplied the system, and Didier Mattalia, the company's sales director for fashion and retail, believes the project might be a first for a clothing manufacturer that distributes its brand to multiple points of sale at large retail stores, as opposed to a clothing maker that runs its own stores. "This is a really different way of using RFID at the retail level," he says. In 2007, Tomorrow's Mother, a North American manufacturer of maternity apparel, adopted a somewhat similar RFID system (provided by Seeonic, and incorporating SkyeTek RFID interrogator modules), whereby it supplied tagged garments and RFID-enabled fixtures to U.S. and Canadian department stores that sold its products (see Maternity Apparel Maker to Deploy Smart Displays in Stores).

Rica Lewis began implementing its system in November 2009, at retail locations in Paris and the south of France. Two salespeople for these regions cover a combined total of 40 to 45 stores. By the end of 2010, the company expects to complete a rollout across France, as well as in Belgium. At that point, some 40 traveling salespeople will carry RFID handheld readers to conduct on-the-spot inventories.

In the store, Rica Lewis salespeople take inventory by means of a mobile Tagsys RFID interrogator and handheld antenna.

The system is based on Tagsys' fashion and specialty retail solution. Rica Lewis employs a Toshiba TEC RFID printer to encode a unique ID number to a Tagsys EPC Gen 2 RFID tag adhering to the paper label that will be attached to each garment. The clothing company ships the encoded labels to its suppliers, which can then apply them to the appropriate garments and ship the tagged goods to Rica Lewis' distribution center (DC) in Fossana, Italy. Currently, the garment suppliers tag roughly 100,000 items per year, destined for stores in the two regions set up for RFID. By the end of this year, Rica Lewis expects to be tagging its full stock of more than 5 million items that it sends to all regions annually.

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