Educating Apparel Retailers and Suppliers About RFID

By Mark Roberti

RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 will feature a preconference workshop, an industry track and a supply chain demonstration—all designed to show the enormous benefits that can be achieved using radio frequency identification.


A few months ago, I had a conversation with a reader who works at a large apparel retailer. He told me his company’s RFID pilot project had been showing great promise, but that he was having trouble getting senior management interested in it, and was thus worried that funding would be cut off. There was one VP in particular, he said, who was very skeptical that RFID could deliver so much value. I suggested he invite the executive and other senior managers to the store to see the benefits in action.

A few weeks later, this individual called me back, very excited, and said, “It worked. We brought a few folks in from the head office, and we showed how we could take accurate inventory in the store with a handheld within 20 minutes. Before I even showed them how we replenish, they were sold.”

That experience got me thinking: Seeing really is believing. Therefore, I reached out to some exhibitors at RFID Journal LIVE! 2011—to be held on Apr. 12-14, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.—as well as key players involved in apparel retail, and suggested we demonstrate how RFID can be used from the manufacturing floor to the point of sale. They agreed, and several have stepped up to work with RFID Journal and GS1 US to create an end-to-end supply chain demonstration, to be held in the LIVE! 2011 exhibit hall.

We’ll demonstrate how companies can tag goods at the source, create advance shipping notices (ASNs), share those ASNs with partners who receive goods into inventory automatically, and check the items received against the ASNs. In addition, we’ll show store orders being sent to a distribution center, and items being picked and then shipped to a store. We’ll also show inventory being taken in the store, and items being replenished using RFID. And we’ll showcase hardware and software solutions from Avery Dennison, Impinj, Tagsys, Seeonic, Conair and Argo Wireless.

Apparel manufacturers and retailers will also hear from Dillard’s, Macy’s and Wal-Mart Stores in a keynote session moderated by Bill Hardgrave, who founded the University of Arkansas’ RFID Research Center before taking a position this year as the dean of Auburn University’s College of Business.

What’s more we’ll host an RFID in Apparel Workshop that will feature the following presentations:

Adding Value to EAS Solutions With RFID

Speaker: Bill Hardgrave, dean and Wells Fargo professor, College of Business, Auburn University

Apparel Source-Tagging Study—Comprehensive Use Cases

Speaker: David Cromhout, lab director, RFID Research Center, University of Arkansas

Update on the Item Level RFID Initiative

Speakers: Joseph Andraski, president and CEO, Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions (VICS); Patrick Javick, VP of industry engagement, apparel and general merchandise, GS1 US

Retail/Supplier Panel: RFID in the Supply Chain

Panelists: Paul Arguin, director of engineering and technology, Conair/USA ID; Myron Burke, director of store innovation and Electronic Product Code, Wal-Mart Stores; Jay Craft, VP of product development, VF Jeanswear; and Chuck Lasley, director of merchandising and supply chain applications, Dillard’s

There has been a lot of buzz about the use of RFID in the apparel sector. This is a unique opportunity for retailers and suppliers to hear directly from companies that have adopted item-level solutions, as well as those studying real-world RFID deployments, and to see the technology in action firsthand. My guess is that skeptics will be blown away by what RFID can do to reduce the time required to take inventory, thereby making it possible to count items and update inventory daily at almost no extra cost.

More accurate inventory means fatter margins. Why? Because when goods are where they are supposed to be, customers buy them. And when they are not, sales are lost and items must be marked down at a later date. Given the current economy and slow sales growth, increasing margins is the best way to boost profits—which is why a lot of retailers are reluctant to talk about how they are using RFID in their operations (see Understanding Competitive Advantage).

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.