RFID and EAS Confusion

Some apparel retailers are apparently confusing RFID and electronic article surveillance solutions.
Published: July 14, 2009

The July issue of Stores magazine has published an article about Charles Vögele, the retailer that won this year’s RFID Journal Award for best RFID implementation (see Vögele, Vail, FOCUS and ODIN Technologies Win RFID Journal Awards and Charles Vögele Group Finds RFID Helps It Stay Competitive).

The Stores article explains how the retailer has adopted radio frequency identification to track apparel items from the point of manufacture to the point of sale (ses Swiss retailer commits to item-level RFID). It’s nice to see RFID getting play in Stores, but the magazine placed the article in its LP Information section, which is devoted to loss prevention.

RFID is not primarily a loss-prevention technology, but there seems to be some confusion about this among apparel retailers. Marshall Kay, principal of RFID Sherpas, a consulting company focused on RFID in apparel and retail, recently wrote an article addressing this confusion (see Is RFID a Victim of Identity Theft?)

“The reduction of shrink is just a minor element of the broader RFID value proposition,” Kay writes. “Letting shrink-management considerations dictate the pace of a retailer’s RFID adoption is like having the tail wag the dog.”

RFID can help retailers better manage store inventory, reduce lost sales and offer staff members more time to spend with customers. It can also be used to increase customer service and satisfaction. Patrons who utilize stores’ RFID-enabled kiosks to obtain information about products they wish to purchase have provided retailers with positive feedback about the experience—they say they like not waiting for help, as well as having information available to them when they need it.

RFID is a powerful tool, one that can play a role in reducing shrinkage. American Apparel, for instance, has found that it can use the item-level visibility RFID provides to get a better idea of when and where goods end up missing, thereby enabling the company to focus on employees who might be stealing. (See American Apparel Makes a Bold Fashion Statement With RFID, American Apparel Expands RFID to Additional Stores and American Apparel RFID Project Featured in Video to learn more about the company’s use of RFID in its operations.)

But this is only a small part of the technology’s overall benefits. To find out how RFID can help the apparel and footwear industry increase sales and gain efficiencies, see Zipping Up Benefits.

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 or click here.