German Department Store Launches RFID-Enhanced Men's Department

A German department store is trying a new RFID system in its men’s department, where it’s tagged 30,000 pieces with Smart Chip labels. When shoppers take garments into the dressing room, an integrated display shows the customer price, materials, and care instructions, as well as sizes and colors available. Later this year, the screens will also show complimentary pieces, a great help if you’re not good at matching clothes or are color blind.

The parent company, METRO Group, already uses RFID along its supply chain and to improve warehouse management, and plans to use the front-of-store RFID tags to speed up inventory replenishment and to help employees locate products faster. Their press release says that “If the customer desires, the Smart Chip will be removed by employees once the product has been paid for.” (Why would you ever leave an RFID tag on once you’ve bought the item?)

We’re not among the anti-RFID crowd in retail applications like this, where it’s used to better track inventory and match real world items to a database of related information. In fact, we’d like to see even more features built into something like this. For example, the ability to request alternative sizes or complementary pieces via touchscreen, so that you can hone in on the right garment without making multiple trips to the dressing rooms. Or to be able to save lists of clothes you like into a wish list or database that you can access online later.

“RFID gives new kind of shopping experience to Galeria Kaufhof customers” [fibre2fashion.com – warning: press release]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. not_seth_brundle says:

    I think the complimentary pieces are a good choice if you have no money, but are morally opposed to stealing.

  2. liquisoft says:

    Why would you ever leave an RFID tag on once you’ve bought the item?

    I imagine it could be a good idea if you buy a shirt, take it home, and then decide you want a jacket that matches. If you wear the shirt back to the store, you could find matching clothing.

    The process this German company is talking about is probably the best use of RFID aside from supply tracking. I think it’s a great idea.

  3. Now THAT’S a good idea!

    I would think laundering would damage the RFID tags even if you wanted to leave them in. Anyone know if that’s true?

  4. dextrone says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Great Point, maybe they’re water proof =P.

  5. jblake1 says:

    What a great way to reduce theft. “Hey there customer, we know the items you brought into the fitting room.” I think its great.

  6. @not_seth_brundle: LOL
    Next innovation: “take a tie clip, leave a tie clip” bowl at the register.

  7. Geekybiker says:

    I’m all for RFID to track inventory. It would be so nice to drive up a cart to the register, swipe a card and go. This is even cooler.

  8. MercuryPDX says:

    @liquisoft: Oooo or maybe they remove the RFID tag from the garment and place it in a “sticker book” just for that reason.

  9. rbb says:

    Wow. High tech Grrrranimals for men.

  10. loueloui says:

    Let’s see trade my personal privacy for fashion tips from someone who is trying to sell me stuff? Uh, NO THANKS. I’ll just read the label, and decide for myself if these pants match this shirt.

    RFID is not a benign technology. In fact it has the great potential for abuse, and some manufacturers, e.g. Gilette, have already figured out how to exploit this.

    I guess nobody here has heard about all of the companies researching ‘traffic patterns’ in stores by following shoppers around with hidden cameras. No not for security, they are analyzing our movements to try and get us to buy more crap. Couple this with RFID, and you have the perfect storm of unethical marketing.

  11. Balance_In_Life says:

    A lot of stores in america are going to use these for anti theft devices. This about it this way. (I work at a retailer who is in the process of getting this done.) If I need to find something in the store, I can just check to see where the item is located. This can also be used to track which items are no longer in the store… but should be. From what I hear these things have a pretty good range on them. (Some can go a few hundred feet outside the store.)

  12. loueloui says:

    @Balance_In_Life:

    Okay great, I’m all for keeping prices low by preventing theft. However why don’t these companies come out and say,’Hey we are only using this to prevent theft, and we promise we won’t use it to invade your privacy.’ That would pretty much do it for me, and just about everybody else.

    Why? Because that’s their plan, and it has been all along -Try to get people to buy more stuff at any cost, no matter how unethical or dishonest the means.

    Walmart swore up and down that there was absolutely no way whatsoever that individual items would be tagged with RFID. There was no plan for it, they weren’t going to do it period. Those tags were for inventory control of palletized goods, and that’s all. Amazingly six months later not only did they retract their statement, but they also had a plan all along for doing what they promised not to. I guess by that point they just didn’t care anymore.

    Anyone who thinks that these chips are not an invasion of privacy should go to nocards.org , and spychips.com and read up.

  13. Caroofikus says:

    That’s really cool! Likewise, my local library has converted to RFID for checkouts and returns. I nearly wet my pants the first time I saw it, I was so happy…