Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time to talk about Wal-Mart again

Why are manufacturers adopting expensive new RFID technology when they're not even sure of its benefits? Because Wal-Mart told 'em to. The new radio-frequency ID tags will let Wal-Mart track inventory easily and cheaply, make sure products are displayed on the right shelves and prevent theft. It's that last part that might be genius. In a Tuesday Wall Street Journal article about P&G-Gillette, it was revealed that Wal-Mart recently called P&G and several other manufacturers -- on a weekend -- ordering them to do something about their most-shoplifted products. The brands were forced to redesign packaging and store displays with theft-prevention in mind.

Given how poorly other retailers address shoplifting, you have to admire Wal-Mart. They're serious.


Brian said...

RFID tags are probably going to save Wal Mart a lot of money, wouldn't you think? Greed drives all innovation at big companies (sort of the definition of for-profit).

I love the technology. It's the next step up from barcodes. I'd really like software to monitor my pantry and fridge, and send me a grocery list at work so I can stop at the store on the way home.

That's my 2 cents.

Irene Done said...

You're right -- RFID will be a money-maker for Wal-Mart even if the manufacturers can't figure out how their own investment in it will benefit them. I'm just fascinated at how Wal-Mart took the problem of shoplifting -- a huge money-drain for retailers -- and flipped it back on their suppliers. "We're losing money; you help stop it." Only Wal-Mart has the heft and imagination to do that, I think. And did you hear that UC will use RFID tags to track corpses? Ick. But good news for you: the automated grocery list is almost a reality. Stores like Albertsons that already offer online shopping with home delivery will have it soon, I'm sure.