Macy’s and Amazon RFID Activity Signals Big Changes for Retail Market in 2017
By Steve Hudson, President, View Technologies
Macy’s recent announcement to tag 100 percent of all items in every store with passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID tags by the end of 2017 is big news. The retail market has been reluctant to make this kind of commitment, but now we are seeing another major retailer join Target in announcing its confidence in the technology. Amazon has joined the fray as well where – a “store devoid of cashiers and checkout lines” will utilize RFID “to track the exit and movement of materials from a shelf and sync to a handheld device” in its Amazon Go retail entry.
Should we expect big things from the retail market in 2017? We think so.
Commenting on the Macy’s announcement, Forbes contributor Barbara Thau reported that “after expanding RFID to its fashion departments, the [Macy’s] department store’s sales volume surged more than 200%...” Based on those numbers it’s easy to see why the retailer, which has struggled as of late, has chosen to further expand its deployment.”
An interesting aspect of this trend is how Macy’s is collaborating with suppliers to tag merchandise at the source. The challenge to widespread adoption of RFID in the retail industry in the past has been convincing the critical mass of brand owners to incorporate tags in their products. Now that two retail giants have committed to the technology, the RFID ecosystem should expand more rapidly as manufacturers distribute tagged items to their other retail partners. At the same time, we should likely see more retailers increase their use of RFID in additional areas of operations, such as loss prevention and enhancing customer engagement.
We were surprised to see that Macy’s is primarily relying on handheld RFID scanners though. This will limit the data capture and therefore applications and potential use of the tagged items. It will be interesting to see if they expand their deployment to include overhead, real-time location readers that will enable them to collect more complex information via continuous reading and cycle counts, item movement and proximity-awareness operations.
Amazon Go could also provide added pressure for retailers to move faster on RFID implementations, especially if it means losing even more ground to major online competitors in the brick-and-mortar arena. EE Times reporter Rick Merritt noted that “[Amazon Go] puts big grocery chains on notice that they need to figure out how to use RFID tags to create such stores before their competitors do.”
Only time will tell how both of these latest developments influence retail adoption of RFID and other IoT technology. Regardless, we are excited to see more high-level deployments signaling others to get onboard.