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Zara Increases RFID Implementation for Faster Fast Fashion

When it’s deliver-or-die, supply chains become the lifeblood of a company. To that end, the fashion industry has embraced technology to navigate today’s hyper-complicated supply chain, with myriad solutions shaping the first, middle and last mile. Call it Sourcing 2.0.

If Zara’s speed to market was not yet speedy enough, its parent company Inditex recently announced it would add radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging to its supply chain processes in a much bigger way.

The technology will allow for garment tracking from logistics platforms through to ultimate sale.

Inditex chairman and CEO Pablo Isla announced the move at its annual shareholders meeting Tuesday and said the innovative technology will make distribution more efficient, in-store garment management more accurate, and improve customer service standards.

“Implementation of this next-generation technology is one of the most significant changes in how the Group’s stores operate,” Isla said. RFID technology is already present in more than 700 Zara stores, and is currently being rolled out further. All of the retailer’s logistics centers already use RFID, and Inditex expects to have the tracking technology installed in all of its Zara stores by 2016. Following the full implementation at Zara, Inditex expressed plans for a gradual rollout across the rest of its brands, including Massimo Dutti and Bershka, at a rate of roughly 500 additional stores each year.

Zara has been known for its keen ability to get fashion from runway to sales floor, often before the customer even realizes which trend they’re after. This speedy turnaround is owed in part to Inditex’s centralized distribution system in which product goes from suppliers to distribution centers in its Spanish home base before being forwarded on to stores.

With the RFID technology, each garment is coded in the logistics centers, so that when Zara gets its twice-weekly store shipments, the system immediately pinpoints which sizes and models need replenishing, making the retailers whole product to market process that much faster. Using RFID will also allow Zara to maximize its omnichannel offering–key to targeting today’s ever connected consumer–by being able to immediately identify for a shopper whether a size is available in-store, in another store nearby, or online.

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