By Claire Swedberg
Oct. 28, 2011—Three weeks after launching an item-level RFID
system at its first Memove
store, as well as at a distribution center, Valdac Global Brands
reports that the technology has enabled its DC to reduce the time previously required for its staff to perform inventory counts, from several days down to mere hours.
At the store, located in the Shopping Tamboré
shopping center, in São Paulo, Brazil, the benefits of deploying radio frequency identification
have yet to be measured, the company reports. However, the RFID solution is intended to not only help the firm ensure that products are on the sales floor, but also enable customers to purchase items without seeking help from a sales clerk. The technology also acts as an electronic article surveillance
(EAS) system, sounding an alert in the event that an item leaves the store without being purchased. The system was designed and installed by Brazilian RFID company RFSense
, which developed the middleware
that forwards RFID data to Linx Systems
software residing on Memove's back-end server. Impinj
RFID readers were provided by Synergy
, a Brazilian systems integrator that sells a range of RFID products, solutions and services.
A label with an EPC Gen 2 RFID inlay is sewn into each garment at the factory.
Valdac Global Brands plans to open stores dedicated to its new fashion brand throughout Brazil. Memove targets fashion-conscious consumers between ages and 18 and 25, with the intention of being cutting-edge in its use of technology. For that reason, the first Memove store has mounted screens on which customers can watch music videos or sports games, and also provides Apple
iPads for browsing the Internet. In addition, the company wanted to make it possible for customers to easily pay for purchases, without needing to queue up at a counter to wait for a sales associate. The RFID solution makes it possible to purchase apparel quickly, while also ensuring that non-purchased goods are not removed from the premises.
With the "Source to Floor" solution that RFSense provided, Memove can track each of the store's approximately 40,000 products, from the point of manufacture through the DC, to the store, onto the shelf and finally at the point of sale (POS), according to Nikhil Deulkar, Impinj's senior product line manager.
Nikhil Deulkar, Impinj's senior product line manager
The company began fleshing out its RFID plans in January 2010 (see Brazil's Valdac Turns to RFID for Style and Savings), and the system went live on Oct. 7, 2011, at the Memove store and the DC that serves it. Memove's apparel manufacturers in Brazil, China and other countries are sewing an EPC Gen 2 passive RFID label into each item. The labels, developed by Haco Etiquetas, incorporate Valid RFID inlays made with Impinj's Monza 5 chips. Each label's RFID tag is encoded with a unique ID number linked to the product's stock-keeping unit (SKU), and is read as the label is sewn into the garment, in order to verify that it is operating properly. Memove is expected to employ 5 million tags next year, Impinj reports.
When the apparel is received at the distribution center, each garment's RFID label is interrogated by one of the DC's two Impinj Speedway xPortal readers. RFSense also provided the DC with a conveyor belt fitted with an Impinj Speedway Revolution R420 reader. The RFID tags are read at three separate points: when the products are received, as they are placed in storage and when they are shipped out. In this way, Memove knows which goods are on hand at the distribution center, as well as when they are en route to the store.
At the store, the system includes six Speedway Revolution readers, used for POS and inventory checks, as well as three Speedway xPortal interrogators installed at doorways at the front and rear of the building. An xPortal first reads tags as goods arrive, providing an instant update to the list of store inventory in its Linx Sistemas software. The store also employs an RFID
-enabled trolley, designed and provided by RFsense, which can be rolled past aisles in the back room or on the sales floor, in order to update the inventory—which takes only a matter of minutes to complete, the firm reports.
A customer wishing to make a purchase can go to a POS area and place all items in an RFID-enabled basket. The basket's built-in Speedway xPortal reader
and Impinj Brickyard antenna
capture the unique ID number of each garment's sewn-in RFID label, then forward that information to the store's POS software. The software calculates the sale amount and displays that data on a POS terminal adjacent to the basket, after which the customer can complete a sales transaction by swiping a credit or debit card at the POS terminal. At the same time, the inventory is updated to indicate which items have been sold. In addition, the basket's interrogator
erases the label's encoded ID number, so that it can no longer be read. As the shopper carries his or her purchase out of the store, the fixed reader
portal at the exit does not read the tags, and thus no alarm is sounded. However, if the tags have not been erased—thereby indicating that one or more items have not been purchased—an audible alarm is sounded.
Memove's store has a trolley, fitted with an Impinj Speedway reader, that the staff can roll through the back room or onto the sales floor, to quickly update inventory counts.
If an individual decides to return a previously purchased item, the bar code
printed on the product's hangtag can be scanned, since the RFID tag
is no longer operable, and the tag can then be re-encoded with its ID number. If the tag can not be reprogrammed, that failure indicates that the tag has been damaged by being laundered. In such a scenario, the store would refuse to accept the return, since it would know that the garment had apparently already been worn.
An Impinj reader installed in the store's floor, at the entrance of the changing rooms, also reads the RFID labels. When the device captures a label's ID number, it transmits that data to the Linx Sistemas software, which determines the number of items being carried over the reader, and displays that information on a screen mounted at the same location. In that way, the software can track how many items enter the changing rooms, and customers can view, in real time, the number of garments that they bring in to try on.
Memove intends to use the system for six months at its first store, before evaluating the results to determine whether the technology provided shoppers with greater inventory accuracy, security and convenience. Valdac will then decide how broadly to implement the technology among its other stores, including those already in operation, as well as any new locations that will be opening. Memove plans to open 54 stores within the next five years, Impinj reports, all utilizing RFID technology in one form or another. In the future, the Memove stores may also utilize the RFID labels to provide fitting-room readers that could interrogate the labels of clothing tried on by a customer, and display details regarding accessories or other garments that would complement those items. What's more, the fitting-room system will come with a push-button that will enable shoppers to request help from a sales associate.