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American Apparel Taking Wireless Inventory With RFID

Each of its 17 stores in New York will be equipped for RFID during the next three months; an additional 120 locations in North America will follow.

Clothing retailer American Apparel has a chip on its shoulder, and probably in its waistband too.

The source isn't some organizational mood swing, but rather an item-level RFID system for inventory control it's rolling out in New York and will eventually use nationwide, American Apparel said Monday.

The RFID inventory system is built with equipment from Avery Dennison, Motorola, and Vue Technology. Avery Dennison is providing its AD-222 tags. Motorola's MC9090-G RFID handheld readers are used for "cycle counting," while Motorola XR440 fixed readers with AN480 antennas track stock movement. Vue's management software keeps an eye on devices, networks, desktop and mobile workflows, EPC commissioning, and developer interfaces to RFID. The system will let American Apparel track items from the manufacturing plants to stockrooms, sales floors, and points of sale.

The retailer plans a phased rollout. Each of its 17 stores in New York will be equipped for RFID during the next three months; an additional 120 locations in North America will follow, according to a statement from Motorola.

Its first deployment at a store near Columbia University, where more than 40,000 pieces of merchandise were tagged, is already yielding positive returns. Weekly inventory can now be accomplished with just two people in two hours instead of requiring four people working for eight hours. That in turn is supposed to free up sales associates to spend more time with customers and improve store sales, Motorola said.

"We look forward to deploying the technology on a larger scale so that our entire organization can leverage the value of RFID to improve overall inventory management processes and enhance our customers' shopping experience," said Zander Livingston, RFID technology director for American Apparel, in a statement.

Using the wireless technology, American Apparel expects to increase sales and customer service by having real-time visibility into its product levels at nearby stores, and expedite the intra-store transfer process to balance stock. RFID will also record and report on purchases all across a region of stores to help the retailer understand trends better and more quickly.

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