April 25, 2011, 6:41 PM — My 7th annual visit to RFID Journal Live! (April 12-14th, 2011) was jam packed with engaging conversations with optimistic and energized retailers, suppliers, academics and technology vendors. Mark Roberti, the founder and editor of RFIDJournal magazine and host of the event, reported that preregistration was up 15%, in an RFID Journal editor's note on April 18, 2011. Interestingly, it seemed to me that there were fewer vendors and more endusers than last year. Most importantly, the endusers that attended were already working on projects or feverishly trying to figure out how to leverage RFID in their businesses.
The biggest surprise, for me, was the number of retail suppliers earnestly taking notes and asking questions as industry experts and peers provided guidance in breakout sessions, and the number engaged in serious discussions with technology vendors. This makes sense, with more than a dozen US based retail pilots and/or rollouts underway, many suppliers have gotten on the bandwagon to gain early competitive advantage. Most of these suppliers are working on identifying their own business benefits, so that these projects don't become underwhelming "slap and ship" efforts, like many of the consumer goods company's efforts, whose RFID efforts heated up in 2004 in response to Walmart and DoD mandates, but progressed at a snail's pace. In fact, the story is quite different today for apparel manufacturers. Gerry Weber, the winner of the 2011 Best RFID Implementation award by RFID Journal, drove their initiative based on the benefits as a supplier.
Astounding Benefits Continue to Drive RFID Implementations
I have to reiterate that I am convinced that the benefits are real for retailers, particularly vertically integrated retailers, who generally work with a limited number of suppliers, and can tag all products and roll out store by store, rather than having to go through the painstaking process of assisting suppliers, one by one. I am also convinced that RFID enables leaner store inventories, without sacrificing lost sales.
Retailers continue to resist being very vocal about the benefits they've received, arguing that they don't want to give up competitive advantage, but the numbers I continue to hear over and over include the following: