Retailer Uses RFID to Help the Sartorially Challenged Sex

By Mel Duvall Print this article Print

Red tie with that white shirt? Men buying clothes get automatic suggestions.

At a high-end department store in Germany, the future of RFID technology is now on view.

At Galeria Kaufhof in Essen, Germany, the retailer Metro Group is using RFID technology not just to track individual apparel items from supplier to distribution center to checkout, but also to help recommend purchases to customers.

When customers in the men's department at the Kaufhof store take a piece of apparel into a dressing room, they're in for a surprise.

An RFID reader on a "smart mirror" in the change room determines which clothing has been brought into the room from the RFID tag attached to the apparel, then displays complementary clothing choices or accessories. The system is used in combination with "smart shelves," which can read what merchandise is currently in stock, so that customers can be shown choices in sizes that are available, and in various styles and colors.

Apparel arrives at Metro's warehouse, near Dusseldorf, with tags installed by suppliers. The tagged goods are read and recorded on a conveyor system utilizing technology from Checkpoint Systems. Readers installed in smart shelves and at various read points within the Galeria Kaufhof store are supplied by Impinj. Reva Systems provides the software to manage the various RFID components and integrates the RFID system with various back-office systems and applications.

Bill Colleran, chief executive of Seattle-based Impinj, says the exciting thing about the Kaufhof deployment is that it demonstrates that RFID can be used in retail for much more than to wring out cost savings in the supply chain. With the use of business intelligence systems like smart mirrors and smart shelves, it can be a new sales driver.

"People joke that this is the ideal place to start because men need more help" in making choices," he says.

Write to reporter Mel Duvall

Related story: Wal-Mart's Faltering RFID Initiative

This article was originally published on 2007-10-04
Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.

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