UK apparel market realising real benefits of RFID

By Michelle Russell
Published April 26, 2016

The use of radio frequency identification (RFID) is set to take off in the UK apparel market, a new survey has shown, as retailers and brands look to improve inventory accuracy.

Over 25% of the top UK retailers, including Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Tesco's F&F and George at Asda use RFID in their stores, according to the survey by not-for-profit global standards group GS1 UK. A further 20% are trialling RFID tags, and 15% are investigating their use and are set to pilot the technology in the coming months.

The main driver of RFID adoption, according to survey respondents, is for inventory accuracy. This is followed by stock visibility and availability, loss prevention, supply chain automation and innovation. 

The use of RFID sees retailers typically cut their out-of-stocks by up to 50%, saving around 80-90% of time for stock management.

"The growth of e-commerce and globalisation of the retail supply chain has emphasised the value that RFID technology brings to the retail industry," says Andy Robson, supply chain solutions manager at GS1 UK. "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."

Most recent research for the global usage of RFID by IDTechEx shows that 10.4bn tags are expected to be sold in 2016. In apparel tagging in particular, RFID tags are expected to reach 4.6bn this year. 

The biggest attraction for retailers and brands that are increasingly selling across an omni-channel distribution network is the benefit of an efficient supply chain and the positive impact 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%," GS1 UK says. "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."

A new initiative launched recently will see Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) assign individual, serialised digital identities and data profiles to products for some of the world's largest fashion and performance brands over the next three years.

The new agreement will build so-called Active Digital Identities into products as they're manufactured through printed QR codes that can be scanned with a smartphone, as well as near field communication (NFC) and radio-frequency identification (RFID) smart tags.