A German department store, the Galeria Kaufhof in Essen, part of the Metro retailing group, is using RFID technology in a new way. Of course, it is using the tags to track the clothing items from its suppliers up to checkout. But according to a short article in Baseline, men buying clothes in this store will get automatic suggestions. For example, when you go to a dressing room to try a suit, a 'smart mirror' will tell you what kind of shirt or tie you need to buy with it. Will this technology be deployed elsewhere? Time will tell.
You can see above the kind of 'smart mirror' you'll find in the Galeria Kaufhof (site in German) department store in Essen, Germany. Here is a description of Galeria Kaufhof in English by its owner, the METRO Group.
And on the photo above, you can see a customer in front of clothes to choose from. The two images above come from RFID project photogallery (Credit and copyright: Kaufhof Warenhaus AG.)
For more information about this innovative use of RFID tags, you might want to read "RFID-Pilotprojekt in der Galeria Kaufhof Essen gestartet" or the text of a press conference given by Dr. Uwe Schlick (both are in German and dated September 20, 2007).
But if you prefer news in English, please read this common press release by RFID solutions provider Checkpoint Systems, RFID reader manufacturer Impinj and RFID networking software maker Reva Systems. (September 20, 2007)
Now, let's look at the Baseline article to discover how the system works. "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."
In "METRO Unveils Warehouse-to-Checkout RFID System," RFID Update provides more details. "One end of the deployment begins at METRO's distribution center in Neuss, where tagged goods bound for the Kaufhof store are read as they are packed, as they pass down a conveyor, and as they are shipped out through a dock door. The goods are read again upon delivery at receiving portals at the back of the Kaufhof store, and again as they pass from the back room to the store floor. For the moment, the deployment is focused on men's apparel."
But it's at the other end of the selling chain that customers might be surprised. "RFID readers are installed in walls, tables, and clothing racks of the men's department. In addition to providing METRO with data on store floor inventory in real-time, the readers enable a number of consumer-facing applications that METRO hopes will both wow customers and make their buying experience richer and more convenient. The RFID tables are hooked up to an accompanying flat screen, which displays what sizes and styles are immediately available on that table. The RFID mirrors detect which garment the customer is wearing or holding and offer recommendations for complementary items."
And of course, all this information is extremely valuable to the retail chain. Let's return to the Baseline article for its conclusion. "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."
Sources: Mel Duvall, Baseline, October 4, 2007; and various websites
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