Ritz Camera Focuses on RFID-Accelerated Checkout

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2005-03-31
The 1,200-store Ritz Camera chain wants to let customers drop off film without having to slow down and thinks RFID-enabled contactless payments are picture perfect. With competitors including Wal-Mart moving in, this specialty retailer is stressing expertise and getting people in and out quickly.

Vice President of Information Systems Bob OHern (Ritz doesnt have a CIO, but he acts in that capacity) said he likes the RFID capabilities within a contactless payment system, but doesnt yet see its value in his supply chain.

Back-office use of RFID to track inventory "is still evolving, still several years away," OHern said in an eWEEK.com interview. "We are still in a wait-and-see mode."

But its a very different story with payment. The RFID functionality there is much more limited, with the wireless component acting as little more than a translator. It wirelessly grabs payment data from a chip embedded into a credit card held six or fewer inches away. The reader then translates the data so that the chains traditional POS (point of sale) system is tricked into thinking it just scanned a bar code. After that, the POS transaction proceeds normally.

When the card data is seen by the reader, it still requires a clerk to take an action to charge the card, which is to prevent a charge against an RFID-enabled card that is accidentally seen by a reader. OHern said Ritz does not currently plan on deploying self-checkout lanes, so a clerk should always be there to prevent accidental charges.

Test trials have "gone well," and the readers have proven "very accurate," OHern said. "Its really a nonissue from a systems standpoint. It appears the way it would if it had been swiped."

Traditionally, contactless payment systems are used to accelerate payments by anywhere from 20 seconds to about a minute. That can make a huge difference for businesses where speed is critical—such as at a convenience store chain like 7-Eleven or a quick-service restaurant such as McDonalds—but little difference at a clothing store or a car dealership where the actual swiping accounts for a minuscule portion of the transaction time.

Ritz customers, however, fall into two camps, and some of the larger Ritz stores even split those two camps into separate checkout lanes. The first camp is the one where customers just want to pick up new film or pick up or drop off developed pictures. The second camp purchases cameras and photographic equipment. Contactless payments are focused on the first group.

Read the full story on CIO Insight: Ritz Camera Focuses on RFID-Accelerated Checkout.

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