TOKYO -- Fast Retailing, operator of the Uniqlo clothing brand, is introducing a system that uses radio frequency identification tags to let customers check out almost instantly.
Fast Retailing will attach RFID tags, about 2cm by 7.5cm, to the price tags of its items. This will let the new self-checkout system scan all items in the shopping basket at once instead of reading each item separately, speeding the process.
The company began testing the system at four branches of its GU apparel chain in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture, with plans to expand the service to 300 locations this summer. The usual checkout time at the trial stores was nearly halved from two minutes to about one.
Self-checkout also will be introduced at Fast Retailing's roughly 840 domestic Uniqlo stores when its new distribution center, slated to be finished at the start of 2016, begins operating. A standard Uniqlo store, about 900 sq. meters, is staffed on average by 28 workers over the course of a day. But many still struggle to keep up with checkout during their busiest hours.
The apparel giant will use the smart tags to manage the tens of thousands of items each store carries. For example, it could track products that many customers reach for but don't buy. The company will adjust its marketing strategy and production plan based on new information that was unavailable through the old point-of-sale system.
Many supermarkets and other businesses have adopted self-checkout, but most rely on bar codes. Smart tags have been used primarily at higher-priced outlets, such as the Ships and Beams clothiers, since they previously cost upwards of 20 yen (16 cents) each.
But the tags now cost less than 10 yen, and the price could fall even further on massive purchases by Fast Retailing. Combined with advanced product management systems, other retailers could follow in Fast Retailing's footsteps.