M&S is one retailer which has pioneered many innovations in technology, such as Lycra clothing and the machine washable suit. Indeed, the drive for innovation forms a distinct part of its company culture and this move towards RFID on its apparel puts it one step ahead of competitors again.
M&S is to start sending radio tagged men’s suits to all its 400 stores this month.
M&S has been exploring Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) since 2003. RFID is a type of automatic identification system which enables data to be transmitted by a portable device, called a tag, which is then read by an RFID reader and processed according to the needs of a particular application.
RFID tags in clothing labels will hold information on a microchip that gives each garment a unique serial number. When the RFID tag is scanned the information is stored in a database giving the retailer a complete overview of stock management. This will enable the retailer to manage its stock more effectively in stores and throughout its distribution chain and thus increase efficiency.
The advantages of this technology for M&S are extensive. As M&S sells over 350 million clothing items each year, RFID will provide vastly improved knowledge of where stock is located and will improve the availability of garments to customers in stores. This will cut down stock taking and staff time, reduce costs, and provide greater accuracy.
M&S will also gain quicker feedback on its stock position, allowing it to respond better to sales and reduce markdowns which will enhance margins and profits. Time will also be freed up for M&S employees – allowing them to concentrate on improving and increasing customer service which adds value to the shopping experience.
The main disadvantage is cost, but as clothing is higher priced than many FMCG products it can absorb this, unlike food. A RFID tag would currently almost double the price of a tin of baked beans, for instance. M&S will also undoubtedly experience some teething issues with the technology and there is also the issue of personal privacy – but M&S has dealt with the latter by having tags that are clearly labeled and detachable.
Looking ahead, as RFID takes off other retailers will follow; but it will be harder for them to catch up as M&S already has the advantage with its three year head start.
Source: Verdict Research