9 July 2003 Retail giant Wal-Mart, owner of Asda Stores in the UK, has scaled back its commitment to RFID after canning a trial for an in-store wireless inventory control system that was due to start this month at one of its stores in Brockton, Massachusetts.
Wal-Mart had earned worldwide acclaim when it revealed aggressive plans for the adoption of radio frequency identification (RFID) — the next ‘big thing’ in supply chain management and inventory control.
But now it seems that the company is backtracking.
The retail giant had been expected to start the in-store trial in conjunction with fast moving consumer goods maker Gillette this week. But instead, the ‘smart-shelves’ that were going to hold the Gillette Mach3 razor blades were taken down.
The combination of smart-shelves and RFID-tagged goods could have been used to alert store managers when stock is running low and even help to prevent shoplifting.
But according to Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams, the company has decided to focus first on installing RFID systems in warehouses and distribution centres instead and Wal-Mart certainly is not backtracking on its demand that its top 100 suppliers attach RFID tags to boxes and pallets bound for Wal-Mart warehouses.
In-store RFID might follow later when the technology is cheaper.
RFID tags are small, but simple microchips that do not require a power source. Instead, they are activated when in range of a wireless RFID scanner. These scanners can then read the contents of the tags.