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RFID Helps Florida Shoe Retailer Keep Its Customers From Walking Away

Peltz Shoes has developed its own item-level RFID system to track the 30,000 pairs of shoes at each of its Tampa-area stores, improving inventory accuracy and reducing inventory-related labor costs.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 26, 2010Florida shoe retailer Peltz Shoes has saved approximately 1,500 man-hours in the past year by applying a passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tag to every box containing a pair of shoes at each of its four stores, and by employing an RFID-enabled cart to manage its inventory. But that's just part of the benefit, according to Gary Peltz, the retailer's co-owner. In the past 12 months, he says, the company has accomplished five complete inventory counts, consisting of around 30,000 pairs of shoes in each store, whereas previously, the counts were typically managed once annually or less often. This has led to a more accurate inventory, he says, ensuring that customers, whether in the brick-and-mortar stores or online, can purchase the shoes they want.

The family-owned Peltz Shoes, which has been in business since 1957, has increasingly been selling its wares online, and with the growth of that online business, the need for accurate inventory counts became more pronounced. After all, Peltz says, if a customer comes into a store seeking a pair of shoes that are not in inventory, the sales team can often sell that individual another pair of shoes instead. That isn't the case with online customers, however, who are likely to simply take their business elsewhere if the footwear they seek is listed as out-of-stock. In addition, Peltz—who says he has a penchant for organization and enjoys technology—has been eyeing RFID technology for some time to make the inventory process more accurate and reliable.

Gary Peltz points to an EPC Gen 2 RFID label attached to a shoebox.
The company, launched by Gary's parents, Bernard and Gonna, is expected to sell about 350,000 pairs of shoes this year, and is one of the largest shoe retailers in Florida. While working at the retailer's flagship store in St. Petersburg as a boy, Peltz says he was overwhelmed by a sales floor filled with row upon row of shelves packed with shoes categorized by women's and men's shoe styles, brands and sizes, noting that it could be difficult to search for a specific pair. He wanted a system that would not prove as daunting for the stores' staff.

At the same time, Peltz Shoes was looking into attaching to each shoebox a label printed with the specific brand, style, color, size and price of the shoes within, as well as a bar code that could be used by customers and the sales team to gain additional details about the shoes, as well as by point-of-sale workers to scan the shoes as they are purchased. That, Peltz says, would replace a system in which pricing and other product information was only provided on signage posted in the stores for each line of footwear.

The timing seemed right for an RFID solution, Peltz indicates, with RFID labels printed with the necessary price and description, as well as bar-coded Universal Product Code (UPC) and stock-keeping unit (SKU) numbers. In seeking the proper solution, Peltz says, the store also tested handheld readers to capture the unique ID numbers on each UHF EPC Gen 2 label, but found the read rate was insufficient for its needs.

Working with tag vendor Monarch, the company developed an RFID reader cart with an Alien Technology RFID interrogator and multiple antennas on a pole that rises 7 feet—tall enough to reach tags on boxes stacked on the uppermost shelves. As the cart is wheeled past a row of shelves on the sales floor, the reader captures each tag's ID number, and a screen on the cart displays a list of all numbers as they are being captured. The reader then forwards that information via a Wi-Fi connection to software developed by Peltz that receives the data, interprets the tag reads and transmits that information to the store's inventory-management software.

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