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Macy’s Won’t Make Its RFID Move Until Everyone Else Does

Written by Evan Schuman
July 27th, 2011

Macy’s is quickly moving ahead with its RFID item-level tagging efforts, with one report saying the testing has expanded to six distribution centers. But the retailer is saying that significant additional moves will only happen when key competing retailers make their item-level RFID moves. It seems that the $25 billion chain has figured out the difference between being an industry leader and leading an army of one.

Nowhere is that distinction more critical than with item-level RFID. Suppliers will resist—if they resisted the early Wal-Mart edicts and risked the wrath of Bentonville, they’ll resist Macy’s—and they’ll only sign on either when they see concrete benefits or when the percentage of retailers making the move is so high that they have no option but to comply.

The latest Macy’s item-level RFID activity was reported by RFID 24-7 and involved comments from Bill Connell, Macy’s senior vice president of logistics and operations.

The RFID 24-7 story said that the trial’s goals are “improving cycle counts and maintaining physical inventory accuracy.

“We are in the process of evaluating the use of RFID specifically as it relates to replenishment for our apparel and footwear business,” Connell was quoted as saying. “And we are deployed into six distribution centers for furniture and bedding. We’re quite pleased with the initial results.”

But those Connell comments, which included an acknowledgment that the chain is also testing at seven stores, is not the most interesting part. His next thought, about industry cooperation, is much more telling.

“We have stated that as part of the RFID Initiative, we have an eye toward industry adoption by mid-2012 and we fully expect to be an early mover along that timeline. Industry adoption means everybody agreeing to do it, and once that is agreed to, we intend to be an early mover,” Connell said. “Right now, we are running pilots in a relatively small number of stores and that’s all about just understanding what it’s going to take for us to deploy on a large scale from a hardware and software perspective, and from the point of view of the store associate’s use of the technology.”


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