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RFID Boosts Store Turnover by Nearly 10 Percent in Italian Pilot

A study conducted by the University of Parma's RFID Lab, working with a retailer, apparel suppliers and logistics providers in Italy, reveals significant benefits throughout the supply chain.
By Mark Roberti
Another RFID reader was installed at the point of sale. Tags were read at checkout, and the items were removed from the store's inventory once the purchase was completed. Signs were posted throughout the store to alert customers to the presence and use of RFID tags. The tags were not killed at the point of checkout, because a shop associate would remove and discard the RFID-enabled hangtags, thereby eliminating the possibility that shoppers could be tracked using RFID. "No one asked for more information about RFID," Rizzi states. "Privacy was not a big concern."

Quick inventory counts of the entire store could be taken with the adapted Impinj reader in seven minutes, Rizzi reports. During quick counts, staff members waved the Impinj reader antenna around the racks and shelves until they no longer heard a beep, which indicated a tag read. The accuracy of these counts was 97.83 percent.

More careful inventory counts were conducted by two employees, one waving the reader antenna and the other moving garments around to ensure that one tag did not shield another one nearby, preventing the second tag from being read. These counts took approximately 30 minutes, yielding an accuracy of 98.73 percent. By combining the results of three quick counts and a single "more careful" inventory count, 99.35 percent accuracy was achieved. The staff typically performed one quick count in the morning, and one or more additional quick counts during the day.

The University of Parma's RFID Lab employed an EPC Information Service (EPCIS) infrastructure for the project. ID-Solutions, a company spun off from the lab, created the EPCIS application using free Fosstrak EPCIS software developed by the Auto ID Labs at St. Gallen University, in Switzerland. ID-Solutions integrated its own middleware platform, known as RSA (RFID System Administrator), to filter and store the RFID data. The company also provided back-end applications that manage DC and store processes (tagging, shipping, receiving, replenishment, fitting and checkout). By accessing the EPCIS information, the DC and store managers were able to view the items' location in near real time. Employees could, for instance, see which items were in the store's back room at any given time, as well as which were on the sales floor.

The RFID system also provided raw data for business-intelligence software to analyze. Consequently, the business-intelligence software could displays the length of time between when an item was tried on and when it was sold, the days and times at which the most items were tried on, the items that were tried on and sold, and those that remained unsold (indicating a potential problem with, for example, an outfit's cut).

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