RFID is set to take off in UK apparel market

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A recent survey by GS1 UK showed that over 25% of the top 20 retailers in the UK – including Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Tesco F&F, ASDA George and others – are already using RFID tags in their stores.

Another 20% are currently trialing and 15% are investigating their use and are due to pilot the technology in the next few months.

The survey respondents said that inventory accuracy was their main driver for adopting RFID. Other reasons include stock visibility and availability, loss prevention, supply chain automation and innovation. The use of RFID sees retailers typically cutting their out-of-stocks by up to 50%, and seeing an 80-90% time saving using RFID for stock management.

But our further research has shown that it's not just the large retailers that are adopting RFID. Smaller brands – like the high end men's tailor, Gieves & Hawkes – recognise that supply chain visibility and inventory accuracy are foundational requirements for effective omnichannel operations.

Sam Thompson, IT Manager at Gieves & Hawkes said: "RFID technology has been easy to deploy and the store appreciates the benefits it offers. The data generated is useful in managing store stock levels."

Lee Adams, Head of NPD and Marketing at Catalyst, a global supplier of retail security products, said: "We have had discussions around using RFID to help tackle various challenges with many retailers over the recent years and we have noticed that those conversations are more frequently moving to firm commitments on proofs of concept, trials and even full roll outs. We are certainly approaching a tipping point in terms of retail market adoption. Gieves & Hawkes is the latest example of this and we are currently deploying the technology with others."

These figures emphasise the importance of RFID in today's retail world – the most recent research for the global usage of RFID by IDTechEx shows that 10.4 billion tags are expected to be sold in 2016. In apparel tagging alone, RFID tags are expected to reach 4.6 billion in 2016. Undoubtedly, with retailers and brands increasingly selling across an omnichannel distribution network, what remains the biggest attraction to them is the benefit of an efficient supply chain and the positive impact this has for consumers.

Once an RFID tag is applied at source, retailers are able to identify every piece of merchandise in every retail stock location, across the whole supply chain. From the discussions we are continuously having with the UK retailers, we find that on average this increases inventory accuracy from 63% to 95%. This makes it possible to deliver the products consumers want, when and where they want them, and therefore increasing brand affinity and of course sales.

Andy Robson, Supply Chain Solutions Manager at GS1 UK said: "The growth of e-commerce and globalisation of the retail supply chain has emphasised the value that RFID technology brings to the retail industry. With the visible, accurate and real-time stock information it provides retailers, it's an essential step for them to take to provide the seamless experience their customers expect today – both online and in-store."

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