The worlds largest retailer on May 1 reaffirmed its support for RFID, citing one-third fewer out-of-stock items, a reduction in excess supply chain inventory and shorter customer waits.
At the RFID Journal Live conference in Orlando, Fla, Wal-Mart CIO Rollin Ford said that the retailer will add radio-frequency identification capability to 400 additional stores by the end of this fiscal year. Ford also said that RFID-supported pallet locators are now being used at Wal-Mart subsidiary Sams Club stores and are increasing inventory accuracy and reducing member waiting time. He also outlined future benefits in pharmacy accuracy; grocery freshness; software, CD and DVD authentication; and 30-second store checkouts.
“In the near future, customers may be able to enjoy advantages such as automatic warranty activation on electronics, freshness assurance on foods thanks to cold chain monitoring and enhanced product safety as a result of faster, more accurate recalls and better freshness monitoring,” Ford said.
Ford even tried to make the argument that RFID—in a roundabout way—is helping the planet and the environment.
“Our focus on using RFID to improve in-stocks for our customers means eliminating extra trips they may make to our store or to others,” he said. “On a daily basis, more than 24 million people shop our stores. If 100,000 extra trips are avoided by having items in stock, we will save customers $22.8 million a year in gas savings and reduce greenhouse gasses by 80,209 metric tons.”
The $345 billion retail chain is a major influencer among major U.S. businesses, especially among consumers goods manufacturers and other retailers. Wal-Mart was one of the pioneers of RFID, so signs of it pulling back from RFID—and there have been such signs, from time to time—could spell major troubles for RFID.
EPCglobal on April 24 unveiled standardized product descriptors for RFID, a move that one EPCglobal official said—for the first time—made business RFID returns-on-investment practical.