Accurate, real-time stock information is now a reality for retailers using RFID when it comes to completing their stocktakes.

Imagine a retail world where you have complete control of your inventory. Not only do you know exactly how much product you’ve got in all of your stores, you know even where it’s located. Your customers come into store and find the product they want in their size. Your staff spend their time with customers, not endlessly hunting through the backroom. You’ve reduced your stock holding, and increased your cash flow. Sounds like retail utopia.

For those retail innovators already rolling out RFID to stores, real-time stock visibility is an attainable reality. I’m not suggesting that these guys are carelessly dancing through the clouds, but you would be hard-pressed to find a retail board that wouldn’t appreciate the lower operating costs and marked sales uplifts that result from RFID.

As mentioned in last week’s blog the development of a global standard – the EPC standard – has made RFID accessible to the common man (and retailer). Developing a standard helped achieve critical mass of the technology, reducing the price of tags and readers by 75% over the past five years.

It has also removed a lot of the costly guess work from implementing RFID. It may sound a little obvious, but a standard becomes a standard for good reason. It’s been tried and tested to ensure it’s fit for purpose and actually works – saving you time and money. And aside from being royalty free, any EPC tag will work with any EPC reader – meaning your investment is in the platform not a proprietary technology.

RFID has a multitude of uses throughout the supply chain, helping businesses to track products end-to-end. But it really shines in store. The early adopters have now proven irrefutable cost and efficiency savings, as well as improved shopping experiences, when RFID is used to manage stock.

Revolutionising retail inventory

RFID in store revolutionises the way you manage retail inventory. Yes, I’m not exaggerating when I say revolutionise. Let’s consider the traditional twice-a-year stocktake. Industry averages estimate the typical store worker can count 200 items an hour. As an example, for a store with 100,000 items paying an average wage of £7.80 per hour, a stocktake will cost £3,900 to complete.

By contrast, a store worker with an RFID reader can count 20,000 items per hour. Like a magic wand, a wave of an RFID reader over a shelf accurately counts the stock and identifies its location. In the same store a stocktake using RFID would cost £39. The reduced labour costs spent on menial tasks can then be reinvested in customer service, which is really what retail is all about.

The ease and cost effectiveness of stocktaking with RFID means you can complete stocktakes more frequently, giving you one of those elusive retail dreams – accurate, real-time stock information. RFID increases average stock accuracy from 63% to 95%. And when your stock counts are accurate your replenishment orders are also on the mark – as you’re basing your decisions on correct data.

A great example of this is American Apparel which, by introducing RFID in store, was able to reduce its levels of safety stock and free up valuable store space. Using RFID the retailer slashed its in-store inventories by more than 20% (the exact figure is super secret). This actually led to it increasing the sales floor space by as much as 10% and reduced the amount of excess stock that had to be liquidated in the end-of-season sale.

Through accurate, faster replenishment and optimising retail floor space with RFID, many retailers are experiencing a sales lift. As RFID identifies the location as well as the quantity of stock in your store, replenishing the sales floor no longer requires an expedition through the stock rooms – searching through endless boxes and rails.

Staff are able to efficiently locate specific products meaning they can get the right stock back on the shelf and maximise sales. Of the retail projects GS1 has worked across, we have seen anywhere from a 2% to 20% sales uplift as a result of the improvements generated through RFID in store.

To calculate how RFID could benefit your business, subscribe to our RFID toolkit, which includes a comprehensive ROI calculator developed with Cranfield University.


  • Andy Robson is Supply Chain Solutions manager at GS1 UK – a community of more than 28,000 members working in retail, food service, healthcare and more. As one of 111 independent, not-for-profit GS1 organisations across 150 countries worldwide, GS1 helps everyone involved in making, moving and trading goods to automate and standardise their supply chain processes using the common language of business.Find out more here.