The topic of RFID is becoming more and more important for the entire retail sector – despite the fact that the debate about the use of this technology is still dominated by data protection concerns. Especially for the textile industry however, there are a whole number of advantages particularly for retailers, which cannot be ignored. Then there are also a number of other modern security solutions, the textile and apparel industry in particular can benefit from.
Aside from the small form factor of RFID labels and the relatively low price per unit (particularly compared with other EAS solutions), one of the most important arguments in favor of the use of this technology is the link between inventory management and anti-theft protection. In a store that is comprehensively equipped with RFID readers, the staff knows how many clothing articles are still on the shelves at any time and is able to reorder items if necessary. In addition, RFID labels reliably alert if a product leaves the store without prior deactivation of the security tag. This way, the technology makes it possible to carry out rationalization potential as well as create processes that are more efficient.
Pilot projects are being extended
At this point, C&A is also among the big players in the fashion industry that relies on RFID. Even though the company has not yet rolled out the technology nationwide in all of its stores, after a successful test at five locations however, the existing pilot project is now scheduled to be expanded to 20 additional stores. By its own account, the retailer emphasizes an optimization of commodity flow and data security. ”We are able to further optimize the processes in our supply chain with RFID technology, which is in the interest of both our customers and associates“, explains Thorsten Rolfes, Corporate Spokesperson for C&A. ”RFID is meant to further improve our range of products in our stores. The goal is mainly to have our collections readily available for our customers in the requested sizes and colors.“
Commercial enterprises and retailers have to take advantage of the benefits of RFID to stay competitive. However, for customers to also embrace the technology the advantages have to be communicated accordingly and drawbacks need to be eliminated or at least minimized.
That is why the RFID tags that are attached to sold items, are typically deactivated by retailers so the person’s actions can no longer be traced based on the information carrier. However, the tags are not really disabled; the important data (particularly the globally unique EPC number) can still be read out after deactivation. It helps if the RFID labels are positioned in a well visible spot, so that the customers themselves can simply remove them by cutting them off after purchase.
The technology is slowly being accepted
Despite the apparent drawbacks, RFID technology is slowly but surely being accepted. The convenience and timesaving potential, for instance by using self-checkout counters at the supermarket, are the main reasons that concerns about data protection have taken a backseat. The acceptance of the new technology however can only be further increased if the technology’s benefit is clear and if there are corresponding higher safety precautions.
Communication is key
Retailers have to respond to these concerns by the public and communicate all pros and cons of the technology. One way of educating customers fully would be with information brochures for instance and information desks in the stores. The Metro Group is also following this path:”We voluntarily committed ourselves to comprehensively inform our customers where and why we use RFID. If requested, after the purchase customers have the option to permanently disable the transponders or to have them removed“, explains Dr. Gerd Wolfram, Managing Director MGI METRO Group Information Technology real,- future-store, in our second interview on RFID in Retail.
Transparency is essential at any rate. Each customer should be able to understand at any time, which of his/her data is being stored and processed. In addition, the retailer also needs to give him/her the chance to object to the collection and use of his/her data. If the customer nevertheless still has data protection concerns, the option of truly deactivating the RFID tags needs to be available. As prior cases have shown, sloppy handling of sensitive customer information leads to a hard to correct loss of trust with the customer. However, if the company enters into an open and honest dialog with the customer, both can benefit from the clear advantages the use of RFID brings.
Daniel Stöter, EuroCIS.com