This month, Denimwall Inc. launched a radio frequency identification solution at the G-Star RAW clothing store that it owns and operates in New York City's Union Square, to do everything from tracking inventory, managing sales transactions and providing electronic article surveillance (EAS) to letting shoppers view product information on a touchscreen. The solution is provided by a team of vendors led by RIoT Insight, a new RFID solutions firm that aims to bring all-inclusive RFID systems to small and midsize fashion retailers. G-Star RAW operates 400 stores worldwide, and Denimwall owns and operates a total of seven G-Star RAW stores on a franchise basis. The RFID solution deployed at Denimwall's Union Square store was taken live about two weeks ago for the inventory-tracking, point-of-sale (POS) and EAS applications, while the customer-facing touchscreen system for shoppers went live this week. Tours of the store's RFID deployments will be available during the National Retail Federation's Big Show event, being held next week. Requests to take such a tour can be made at Impinj's booth (#1570).
The solution includes Impinj's xArray readers mounted on the ceilings, as well as ItemSense software that filters read data and provides location specifics for tags. Austrian software company Enso Detego provides in-store analytics software, while RIoT Insight supplied systems integration and Android and iOS mobile apps, as well as software that personnel can use for such features as finding items, live replenishment notifications, loss-prevention alerts and inventory clarifications. The touchscreen solution for customers is provided by InMotion. Denimwall began offering omnichannel sales for its customers approximately six months ago, according to Craig Leonard, Denimwall's CEO. Tracking inventory became critical, he says, since the company required highly accurate inventory counts to ensure that replenishment kept products available for purchase, both for customers who physically shopped at the stores, and for online shoppers who might purchase goods that would be shipped from those locations.
Leonard says he had considered using RFID, but hadn't felt that the technology would be feasible for his midsize store. "I knew there were big-box people using it," he recalls. "I was interested in what could be done for a medium-sized business." Leonard then spoke with Darren Williams, RIoT's founder and CEO, and the former COO of Retail Pro, who had a background in RFID technology and an interest in an all-inclusive solution featuring real-time location system (RTLS) functionality and RFID readers that most retailers would find affordable and easy to install and use. He says he began meeting with technology providers before settling on a core group that could provide a complete solution. The resulting system is intended to track inventory both in the back room and on the sales floor in real time, as well as enable purchasing and identify when goods leave the store. The solution also allows sales associates to use their own smartphones to locate goods and facilitate routine merchandising tasks, such as replenishment and loss prevention. The solution consists of 12 xArray readers—seven on the 2,000-square-foot sales floor and five in the 1,500-square-foot stockroom.
Impinj helped RIoT determine how the readers and software could be used in the store, according to Larry Arnstein, Impinj's business development VP. The number of readers installed at Denimwall might be somewhat more than needed for a typical store space of its size, Arnstein says. "We were being conservative," he explains, by ensuring full coverage with a large number of readers. The 100-plus-year-old building posed multiple challenges for RF transmission, Williams adds, such as nooks and crannies that would require RF coverage.
The ItemSense software enables the system to break the areas into zones in which tags are being read, Arnstein says. About 2 percent or less may not be readable, and the software displays the list of items that cannot be accounted for as well. At the end of the day, Leonard says, employees spend approximately 10 minutes locating missing items by walking around the store with a handheld reader. The store is using several models of handhelds—an ASReader device that attaches to an Apple iPhone or iPod touch, Nordic ID's Merlin and a Bluetooth reader from Technology Solutions UK Ltd. (TSL)—and by "fluffing" inventory (physically shuffling, lifting or moving the garments).