American Apparel has announced plans to implement RFID in an additional 50 stores. As the Director of RFID for American Apparel from 2007 to 2010, it’s gratifying to watch the progressive expansion of the system I helped put into place. This forward
-looking retail chain was one of the first retailers to test RFID for retail, and it was truly a trail-blazing for the industry.
At the time of the initial American Apparel roll-out, almost all RFID solutions were based on systems designed for industries and applications other than retail. RFID solution providers were taking their existing platforms and adapting them for retail use, not always with positive results.
Meanwhile, at the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Bill Hardgrave, David Cromhout, Justin Patton and other academic thought leaders were researching RFID within the retail environment and achieving remarkable results. They were seeing substantial reductions in time and labor costs for tasks relating to inventory management and cycle counts, and recording inventory accuracy rates as high as 99+percent. There was a lot for a retailer to love about RFID. Still, solution providers were not addressing the specific needs and challenges of the
The more I worked with available technology, and the more data that came in from the RFID Research Center, the stronger my conviction that RFID capabilities for retail were not yet fully tapped. For all things relating to a retailer’s inventory tasks and systems; from cycle counts to supply chain visibility and reducing shrink, RFID was simply the best way. Still, better solutions; solutions designed specifically for retail, were missing from the marketplace.
The hands-on knowledge gained as Director of RFID for American Apparel, working daily in the backrooms and on sales floors, provided me with invaluable insights into retail operations. At the same time, the challenges of adapting
existing RFID systems to fit the retail business model, provided the “Aha!” moment for what was needed to maximize retail efficiencies and ROI. With the store’s pilots well underway, I departed American Apparel in 2010 to focus on taking RFID for retail to the next levels. I formed an independent consultancy, and subsequently developed Truecount RFID, a proprietary solution/system built from the ground up specifically for the retail industry.
The current RFID Director at American Apparel reports that 100 percent of American Apparel’s RFID-enabled stores outperform non-RFID enabled stores, with a significant sales lift. Additionally, the ROI for RFID-enabled stores is less than six months. As North America’s second largest item-level RFID retail deployment, with more RFID-enabled stores than any retail chain other than Wal-Mart, American Apparel’s roll-out may signal the maturing of the technology, and that the past moderate rate of adaption may accelerate. It certainly confirms that it’s time for the retail industry to stop asking “Does RFID really work?” and begin planning how to apply RFID to their existing business model.
It is my view, that American Apparel’s upcoming roll-out, and the classic case study that I am proud to have participated in, will help usher in a new era of widespread implementation for apparel and fashion retailers.
What do you think?
See below to view the now classic American Apparel Case Study, prepared by Avery Dennison, or click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5W5sJ0PhwM