TD Garden Among Stadiums Offering RFID-Based Checkout

Published: January 4, 2024

The EXO Checkout solution from Stark RFID enables Boston sports and music fans to buy goods in seconds at TD Gardens

Shoppers at concert and sports arenas stores are in a hurry. Retailers in these venues are competing with time—the home team’s kickoff, tip off or face off—of customers who enter the store won’t be there long.

And if they see a line outside the store, they may not enter at all.

To better serve these customers, TD Garden is among the first adopters of an RFID-based, automated checkout solution for its two on-site SHOPBOS retail stores. The system, from Stark RFID’s EXO Checkout, is touted as enabling shoppers to buy goods in a matter of seconds.

Since the RFID point of sale stations went live last season, the Boston multi-purpose arena— that hosts the Bruins and the Celtics–has seen a 100 percent increase in merchandise sales, says Josh Briggs, TD Garden’s director of retail for Delaware North, MA Sportservice.

Use at TD Garden

TD Garden is a venue serving large events—not only home of the Bruins and Celtics but a concert venue for big name performers. Its two SHOPBOS sites sell merchandise related to the local teams and events taking place on its site, offering specialty jerseys, foam fingers, hockey pucks, basketballs, gold chains and plush toys among other goods.

Each of the 1,800 square foot stores is open to serve sports or music fans before, during and after games or performances. As a result, the arena stores have been focusing on ways to serve these customers fast, explains Briggs.

“Our biggest goal was speed at checkout, serving people as fast as possible,” he says.

For TD Gardens, Delaware North opted to acquire an RFID solution to make purchasing faster and easier for customers. The solution is using EXO Stations where goods are tagged with RFID labels that are read during purchasing. TD Garden has four points of sale using EXO Stations at each of the two stores.

Sales Transactions in Seconds

Currently, about 40 percent of merchandise that arrives at the store already has a UHF RFID tag applied to it by the supplier. To support those who do not have a RFID tagging program, TD Garden sends RFID tags it prints and encodes, along with their merchandise orders, to some of their smaller vendors, representing 25 percent of goods.

For other products, that are arriving without tags, TD Garden store staff members are printing those RFID tags onsite with Zebra printers and attaching them to the goods. One example is hockey pucks, which TD Garden tags with specialized labels to fit the form factor and transmit properly around rubber.

In all cases, the unique ID of the tag is stored in the Microsoft Azure-based software system from EXO and integrated with the store’s point of sale software. says Lance Burnett, EXO’s president and CEO.

Checkout Process

When a customer selects a product or products to purchase, they go to one of the RFID check out stations. They place the items in a bin which comes equipped with EXO’s technology including Impinj or Zebra readers, and an antenna array to ensure the tags are read accurately in the bin.

A touch screen displays the products being purchased and the total cost, the shopper confirms the order, and then taps their payment card against the terminal.  The transaction is then completed and the shopper can leave the store—all in less than a minute.

The technology can be used either as a self-checkout solution or with sales associates, says Burnett.

In the case of cashier-assisted systems, the shopper hands their goods to the associate who drops goods into the bin and the associate confirms the items are correct and sends to the POS terminal for payment transaction.

The benefits of RFID are more pronounced for shoppers who buy multiple products, since there is no need to individually scan the barcode of each item. Additionally, users can scan large volumes of goods, placing as many in the bin as will fit.

“That’s the sweet spot for EXO because the scan for all the tags is immediate,” Burnett says. “I think our record right now is about 95 items in one transaction.”

Fixed Countertop and Mobile Readers

The point of sale stations come in two versions: one that mounts into a countertop for a fixed location, and one that serves as a mobile version on wheels. Both are used for permanent installations, while the mobile units can also be used for temporary events.

The EXO checkout solution has been installed at five other outlets: UBS Arena, the home of the New York Islanders; Kaseya Center, home of the Miami Heat; Nationwide Arena, the home of the Columbus Blue Jackets; and the NFL Store at Caesars Shops in Las Vegas.

The use case in sports entertainment is ideal for RFID technology, says Burnett, since shoppers have a compressed time during halftime, between innings in a baseball game or as a concert performance is set to begin. But in the long-term, officials see Stark RFID being used at traditional retail businesses.

Facial Recognition

The company will be offering facial recognition to make payments more automatic, in the case of shoppers who enroll for membership with a store so that their face can be linked to their account at the point of sale.

“Then we can decrease that 40 by seconds,” that is required for a payment card to be recognized and approved, Burnett says.

Companies using the EXO Checkout solution typically buy the EXO stations outright, and then pay an annual license fee.

As a result of the systems, Briggs sees a flow of fans and customers moving both in and out of the stores every 15 or 20 seconds, which encourages others who consider shopping there, that they will not be held up in a queue at checkout.

In the future, the SHOPBOS stores inside TD Garden will expand their use of the technology with automated receiving with a handheld RFID reader, as well as using an RFID reader for inventory counting. Such inventory counts manually can require an entire day, while Briggs predicts an RFID based inventory count could be accomplished in minutes.

Key Takeaways:
  • TD Garden has doubled its sales rates since deploying and RFID enabled payment solution that helps speed shoppers through its ProStores.
  • The EXO Checkout solution from Stark RFID is in use by a growing number of stadiums for sporting events and music performances around the world, with facial recognition to be piloted with the technology next.