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U.S. Apparel Retailers Drive RFID Adoption

Large and midsize retailers are moving forward with deployments, as the industry comes together under the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative to ensure that companies embrace standards and common best practices.
By Mark Roberti
Nov 02, 2011Last week, I spoke at RFID Forum 2011, hosted by the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions Association (VICS) and the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP). The annual event has focused largely on the benefits of employing radio frequency identification for apparel retailers, but has been expanded this year to cover suppliers as well. In the future, the forum also intends to involve other categories of retailers and their suppliers.

During my presentation, I explained why RFID technology is ideally suited for tracking individual apparel items from the moment they are manufactured until they are sold, and I provided an overview of some international deployments. One audience member asked whether I think the United States is ahead, behind or about equal with other regions in terms of adoption pace, and I responded that this country is ahead of the game.

Wal-Mart Stores (which has reported $432 billion in annual revenue) is already tracking men's jeans and basics at all of its stores (see Wal-Mart Relaunches EPC RFID Effort, Starting With Men's Jeans and Basics, Wal-Mart Takes a New Approach to RFID and Wal-Mart CIO Still 'Bullish' on RFID). JCPenney (with a revenue of $18 billion) is tracking bras, jeans and shoes at all of its 1,100 stores—and expects to tag all items within four years (see Mischaracterizing JCPenney's Approach). And Banana Republic, part of The Gap (a $15 billion company), has rolled out the technology to 100 stores.

American Apparel ($527 million in revenue) plans to be in 100 stores by the end of this year (see RFID Delivers Unexpected Benefits at American Apparel). Macy's Inc. ($26 billion in revenue) plans to roll the technology out to all 850 Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores next year (see Macy's Inc. to Begin Item-Level Tagging in 850 Stores). Lord & Taylor (which last reported $1.57 billion, before being bought by a private-equity firm) is rolling out a sample shoe-tracking application (see Lord & Taylor Tags Shoes, Boosts Sales). And Dillard's ($6 billion), Jones Apparel ($3.7 billion) and others have been conducting pilots, and appear close to moving forward with deployments (see Dillard's Gears Up for Item-Level Pilot, Dillard's, U. of Ark. Study Quantifies RFID's Superiority to Manual Inventory Counts and Jones Apparel Group Plans RFID Pilot in Nine West Stores).

There are some item-level tagging projects going on in Europe. Our last two RFID Journal Awards for Best Implementation went to two European retailers—Gerry Weber International ($690 million) this year (see Gerry Weber's Pain-Free RFID Revolution), and Charles Vögele ($1.6 billion) in 2009 (see An RFID Fashion Statement). But most European retailers adopting RFID tend to be either smaller boutiques—such as NP Collection (see Finnish Retailer Gets Quick ROI on Item-Level RFID, Finnish Fashion Designer Begins Item-Level Tagging and Clothing Designer Brings RFID to Its Shoppers)—or midsize chains that make their own apparel. Few major apparel sellers are adopting RFID in Europe.

Moreover, there is nothing like the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative (VILRI) in Europe. Most major apparel retailers in the United States, including the majority of those mentioned above, belong to VILRI, which is now open to international retailers (see VICS Item Level RFID Initiative Enters Phase II, VICS Item Level RFID Initiative: An Update on the New Business Model and An Update on RFID in Retail and the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative).


Tilak Dias 2011-11-04 03:23:48 AM
RFID Yarns We at Nottinhgham Trent University has developed a core technology platform to embed micro semiconductor devices within the fibres of a yarn. One of the prototypes that has been created to demonstrate the feasibility of the new technology is a RFID yarn embedded with the Hitachi MU chip and NXP Gen 2 chip. The advantage of our RFID yarn is that it can be easily integrated into a garment at the sewing stage; i.e. it can be incoprated into the seam of a garment thus making it complelety invisible. We are currently looking for industrial partners to commercialise this technology and wonder whether there are any interested parties.

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