Marks & Spencer is about to take its high-tech relationship with Avery Dennison to the next level.

This story first appeared in the January 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The London-based department store group, which began using RFID — radio frequency identification — technology from Avery Dennison nine years ago, has decided to roll out RFID to the apparel and home goods departments of all its stores, which number more than 700 in the U.K., with completion expected in spring 2014.

“Having accurate stock information is a driver for our whole business, especially when it comes to multichannel,” said Kim Phillips, head of packaging at M&S. “The RFID partnership with Avery Dennison is allowing us to replenish stock from the distribution center more accurately, making more garment sizes available to more customers, and continuing to prove its value over and over again.”

M&S began using RFID for clothing in its High Wycombe store in 2003, including 10,000 men’s suits, shirts and ties in its initial run. The process had been expanded to 60 stores by 2005 and, based on improvements in customer service and inventory control, to an additional 60 units in 2007.

Shawn Neville, president of Avery Dennison’s retail brand and information solutions unit, said M&S has used almost one billion RFID tags during the course of its relationship with Avery Dennison. RFID allows for the scanning of up to 15,000 items per hour, even at a distance of a meter from the scanner, versus between 400 and 600 items when bar-code technology is utilized.

“M&S is focused on providing exceptional experience and RFID enables that experience by ensuring inventory accuracy from the distribution center to the store floor, providing shoppers with consistent and accurate product availability in-store and online,” Neville said.

In addition to providing 99 percent accuracy in inventory measurement, RFID reduces out-of-stocks by between 60 and 80 percent, according to Avery Dennison. Payback on RFID investment averages one year.

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