NEWS: RFID Use in Apparel Sector: At the tipping Point?


Mark Roberti, editor of RFID Journal says it's been clear for the past few years that retail apparel will be the first market to adopt radio frequency identification technology on a large scale. Apparel is RF-friendly, and each item comes in a variety of colours and sizes, making it difficult to manage inventory effectively.

The big question has been when the sector will reach the tipping point. The answer, according to Roberti, is when virtually all apparel manufacturers tag all of the items they produce, and all retailers start using the tags to better manage their inventory and enable their omnichannel strategy.

Data presented at last year's RFID in Retail and Apparel 2017 event suggests that adoption of RFID is accelerating quickly. Dr. Bill Hardgrave, the dean of Auburn University's Harbert School of Business, showed that, of the top retailers doing something with RFID, 50% are now at some stage of deployment, approximately a third are in the proof-of-concept stage, and 15% are piloting. There was a 9% decrease in the number piloting the technology and a 71% increase in the number that have deployed RFID in some way, indicating the industry is moving from the pilot phase to the adoption phase.

Hardgrave added that there was a 39% increase in the number of retailers doing something with RFID in 2017, compared with 2016. "There was a huge jump this year in the number of retailers that are deploying," he stated. Market research indicates that some 8.5 billion passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags will be used on apparel items this year, but that is still only a fraction of the total number of l items sold each year. At some point, RFID will take off and all retailers will be forced to use it, says Roberti  who forecasts RFID is clearly getting closer to the tipping point and it is better to ride the adoption wave than be crushed by it.