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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
"They are currently in the process of defining the best practices," says Alain Fanet, Tagsys' CEO. The staff uses the handhelds to take inventory of all items in the store—both in the back room and on the sales floor—once every hour. The company intends to measure the impact of this process on its inventory count, the manpower expended or saved, and any additional benefits gained by the technology's use.

A Tagsys fixed RFID reader has also been installed in the fitting rooms, in order to capture the tag ID numbers of all garments brought into that area to be tried on. That information can then be compared with the POS data to determine which items are tried on and not purchased.

Another fixed interrogator was installed at the store's exit. If the device reads any tags in its vicinity, an alert is sounded to warn that an item is being removed from the store with its RFID tag still attached—possibly an indication that the garment is being stolen. Based on the ID numbers of the tags read by the exit interrogator, the store also knows the exact clothing being removed.

When any of the fixed or handheld interrogators deployed at the store read the tags' encoded IDs, that information is transmitted to the company's back-end system, where Tagsys' middleware—known as e-Connectware—interprets the data and forwards it to Serge Blanco's inventory-management application on its own enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The store can then use that information to determine which items are in stock, as well as which are missing from the sales floor, and then reconcile that data with POS data to determine whether the item was sold, as well as indicate when garments need to be re-ordered.

The use of RFID at the distribution center has proven to decrease labor, Serge Blanco reports. Prior to employing RFID, the DC required 10 workers to receive 25,000 items arriving on a busy day. With the Tagsys system installed, it now needs only two employees to perform the same job—and they can receive 35,000 items. The system could then alert the DC staff if any stock requires replenishment.

The company has a yearly budget of €300,000 ($396,000) to continue upgrading the system, Fanet says, which includes expanding to the other stores. To date, the use of RFID has saved labor in the distribution centers by automating the receipt and shipping data. "We have reduced entry and exit times for goods almost tenfold," Pradier notes, "which means that we are now ready for business growth of 40 to 50 percent."

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