Retailers must tag at item level to reap the best RFID rewards

Retail consultant Kurt Salmon Associates (KSA) has unveiled the findings of its RFID survey, conducted at Metro's Future Store at Rheinberg, Germany.

The survey focused on the effects of RFID on in-store processes, rather than the supply chain, and produced interesting findings about the benefits of case-level tagging compared with item- or product-level strategies.

On a general level, the report claims RFID tagging can improve supply chain efficiency by 35 per cent, out of stocks by 32 per cent and in-store shrinkage by 18 per cent.

However, the report found retailers would not achieve the majority of potential savings available through an RFID strategy unless they opted for item-level tagging. The Future Store survey found that 65 per cent of potential savings could only be achieved by tagging at the product level.

KSA RFID team co-ordinator Heiner Spalink acknowledged that item-level RFID tagging will continue to be unattractive until the price of implementation drops, but urged retailers not to use this as an excuse to do nothing.

'Waiting to do RFID item tagging when the costs fall does not make sense, when we can achieve even a third of the potential savings immediately,' he said. He added that the Future Store demonstrated how on-shelf availability can be boosted, even at case level.

The store has a reader at the unloading bay so stock is counted into the stock room in seconds. It has another reader at the door leading from the stock room to the shopfloor, so the store systems can tell instantly what products have been brought out and stacked on the shelves.

Another interesting finding to come from the survey is the level of staff support that is necessary for RFID implementation to succeed.

According to the report, half of the potential cost savings available in an RFID implementation will be wiped out unless staff are willing to collaborate

Spalink explained that Metro's RFID project demonstrated two key elements in winning staff approval: constant communication with employees on the coalface and sponsorship of the project from the very top.

Metro delivered the report to a supplier meeting in May. Spalink claims it forms the basis of the retailer's RFID strategy until the end of the year.