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What Retailers Need to Know About Smart Fixtures, Shelves and Labels

Innovative in-store RFID solutions provide a convenient and cost-effective way to manage fast-selling items and frequent price changes.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Dec 01, 2012—Hospitals are using smart cabinets equipped with radio frequency identification technology to monitor medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, and factories and construction sites are setting up smart cribs to manage tools (see RFID Smart Shelves and Cabinets and A Guide to RFID Tool-Tracking Solutions). In both cases, RFID is helping companies and organizations track high-value items that are costly to replace when they are misplaced or stolen—or, in the case of pharmaceuticals, when they expire and are no longer effective or safe to use. The smart cabinets and cribs also reduce the time workers spend looking for lost items.

Now, RFID providers are developing smart fixtures, shelves and labels for apparel, supermarket and other retailers that allow them to benefit from the technology without adopting it throughout the store. While major retailers have begun RFID-tagging apparel items to improve inventory accuracy—and J.C. Penney has announced plans to tag 100 percent of its merchandise—many retailers, especially smaller ones, will not transition to RFID overnight.

These solutions are designed to provide a convenient and cost-effective way to manage frequent price changes and fast-moving products, including inexpensive items such as T-shirts and some consumer packaged goods (CPG). Improving these operations can reduce labor and increase sales.

Here's what you need to know about smart fixtures, shelves and labels. For more information, see the vendor table on page 31.

Smart Fixtures
Some specialty apparel items have a very short shelf life, because customer demand is determined by events or seasons. RFID-enabled fixtures and software that track RFID-tagged items give retailers and manufacturers real-time in-stock visibility, to ensure all the merchandise shipped to a store is placed on sales-floor displays in a timely manner, says Bill James, VP of business development at Seeonic, which offers the SightWare solution.

Creative Apparel Concepts is a Minneapolis-based apparel manufacturer that produces branded logo apparel for more than 125 colleges and universities. Before major game weekends, retailers in college towns stock up on these products to meet spikes in demand for items with home-team logos, as well as short-term demand for shirts promoting the visiting team. "Sometimes 100,000 sports fans will come to town for a weekend, and they buy like crazy," James says. "They go to the apparel racks and stuff flies off."
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