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Serge Blanco Store Takes Stock of RFID

The French luxury sportswear company's Toulon location is using RFID to take inventory throughout the day, with the goal of gauging the technology's ability to decrease out-of-stocks, save labor and improve sales.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 27, 2010French luxury sportswear designer and retailer Serge Blanco has expanded the item-level RFID tracking system it launched in 2009, by testing the tags at the retail level for tracking inventory at one of its stores. If the pilot goes well, the company intends to equip its other retail locations with handheld RFID interrogators, to track products as they are received and moved to sales-floor shelves, as well as fixed reader portals at dressing rooms and exits. The store testing the system, located in Toulon, France, is using RFID interrogators and software from Tagsys—the same French company that provided the clothing retailer with its initial supply chain visibility solution last year (see Serge Blanco Finds ROI in RIFD).

Since workers at Serge Blanco's clothing factories already tag every garment the company sells, the use of RFID interrogators at the store could further the technology's benefits, says Mathieu Pradier, the firm's VP of operations. Initially, he says, when it began tagging each item of clothing at the point of manufacture, "the main goal was logistics." The company wanted to improve its distribution center's capacity to manage its 30 percent yearly growth. After it began using RFID to accomplish this goal, he explains, Serge Blanco began seeking other applications for the technology as well.

A Serge Blanco employee uses a handheld RFID interrogator to take inventory.
According to Pradier, the Toulon store is serving "as a kind of laboratory for the brand." If the system successfully increases inventory visibility, decreases out-of-stocks, and reduces manual labor and improve sales, he says, the firm intends to expand the installation to all 40 of the stores it owns and operates.

Serge Blanco primarily makes men's clothing, which it sells at its own stores, as well as at 320 third-party retail sites throughout France, Russia, Italy, Ireland and Dubai. Due to the company's fast growth, in 2008 it assessed whether it needed to expand its distribution center (creating a new building and adding new employees), or try to optimize the flow of goods through its existing facility. The firm chose the latter path, using RFID tags (attached to garments at the point of manufacture) to gain the visibility that would make this possible. The company is utilizing RFID to track where goods are located—from the items' receipt at the DC to the point of shipment to the stores—and ensure they are shipped at the right time, and to the proper destination.

Since March 2010, the Toulon site's staff has been using five Tagsys HHU-400 handheld interrogators to read the tags as garments are received at its store, as well as for inventory checks on the sales floor. Employees at the Toulon store conduct inventory counts throughout the day, using handheld interrogators to read the RFID tags of all items on the sales floor. When an item is purchased, a sales clerk utilizes a bar-code scanner attached to a point-of-sale (POS) terminal to identify the outfit being sold, and its tag is then removed.

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