Historically, one of the first industries to deploy RFID in their operations on a larger scale was the retail industry, and fashion retail in particular. The reasons are many, such as the need for improved inventory accuracy, the ability to prove the authenticity of the items and to ensure product availability, etc. Ultimately, it is about enhancing customer experience and increase sales.
We teamed up with our customer, Swedish fashion retailer Gina Tricot, to learn about their experiences of deploying RFID in their operations. In this blog post, we share their story of how they deployed RFID in all their stores across the Nordics.
Like many retailers, Gina Tricot relied on barcode-based inventory takes. The challenge with barcode-based systems is that the process is prone to human error, as each tag needs to be scanned individually. As this also makes stock takes very time-consuming, companywide inventory was done once a year. This resulted in inventory data that got outdated very fast and, as consequence, backroom buffers and stock inaccuracies continuously grew. The trigger to deploy a new technology stemmed from the need to solve the issues related to stock accuracy. Gina Tricot decided to go for RFID, as the benefits of this sensor technology were known to the organization and RFID is a proven technology when it comes to accurate inventory tracking and management.
To enable piloting the new technology, garments needed to be tagged with RFID tags. During the pilot, all tags were printed by the Project Manager at the Gina Tricot HQ. Together with the Nordic ID’s team, Gina Tricot manually attached the tags to the existing price labels. During the pilot, two different RFID handheld scanners were used. Association was done by Gina Tricot project staff with a Nordic ID reader and inventory was done with the Nordic ID HH53 handheld.
The inventory was implemented with the handheld RFID scanner once a week. The Project Manager visited the stores throughout the pilot phase to assist the Store Manager in the stock takes and gather feedback from the staff.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the Nordics in February/March, Gina Tricot was forced to close their stores or cut opening hours. As consequence, the project came to a halt. After a pause of two months, a project steering group meeting was arranged, where it was decided that the project team could restart the RFID deployment in all countries.
RFID readers and tags were distributed to the stores. Each store received one handheld RFID scanner for tagging, encoding, and associating tags and products. By mid-October, all stores were fully RFID enabled.
Enhanced customer experience
Challenges with inaccurate stock data impacted customer satisfaction. Webshop records showed that there should be one piece left of a specific item in a store, but when the customer asks for it on-site, it is nowhere to be found. With the RFID-based inventory solution, stock data equals the actual stock balance, and both customers and staff can count on items being available.
As long as the staff had to rely on barcode-based stocktake data, not having items available in the store was too common a situation. Customers left the store without purchasing, as the item could not be located. RFID allows selling to the last unit. As the inventory data is always up-to-date and accurate, the staff knows what they have, how much, and where it is, which enables them to sell more.
– Juuso Lehmuskoski, Nordic ID CEO