May 19, 2017—
U.K. department store retailer John Lewis has deployed ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC RFID technology at 34 of its 46 stores to improve inventory management of key fashion products. The rollout took place during the course of just three months late last year, and 25,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs) across lingerie, sleepwear, swimwear and men's formal wear are now being tracked at those locations via RFID readers (see The John Lewis Success Story: From Pilot to Deployment).
The company opted to deploy RFID tagging for entire product SKUs to make the deployment simpler to manage, says Rob Mitchell, John Lewis's manager of selling support. "This volume will increase through 2017 as we roll out to more assortments," Mitchell reports. By early 2018, the retailer expects all apparel to be tagged during three additional phases.
John Lewis's Rob MitchellThe solution is provided by security technology company Checkpoint Systems, which offers software and integration services, with tags from Avery Denison and handheld RFID readers provided by Zebra Technologies.
The handheld readers are deployed at all of the 34 branches, and the Checkpoint software to manage the collected read data resides on the retailer's centralized server. There, the software provides reporting for central and branch operational teams.
Since the system was taken live late last year, Mitchell reports, the increase in on-shelf availability provided by the system has boosted sales. An additional benefit is a reduction in stock levels, he says, since the company no longer needs to store as much inventory at branches in case product may run out "We can better direct our replenishment effort," Mitchell states, "and stock levels have been reduced as we have been better able to trust the stock figures and, therefore, remove contingency stock."
John Lewis, the United Kingdom's leading department store retailer, is owned by the John Lewis Partnership. Before this deployment, the company embarked on an RFID pilot in 2014 and 2015 at three branches across a few select fashion items. Based on that pilot's success, the store decided to roll out the system on a universal level across entire SKUs. Approximately 80 percent of all tagged products are being tagged at the point of manufacture, Mitchell explains, while the remaining 20 percent are being tagged by a third party.