Wal-Mart: 400 More Stores To Be RFID-Enabled This Year

The world's largest retailer on Tuesday reaffirmed it's support for RFID, citing one-third fewer out-of-stocks, slashing of excess supply chain inventory and reduced customer waits.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Wal-Mart CIO Rollin Ford said that RFID-supported pallet locators are now being used at Wal-Mart subsidiary Sam's Club "increasing inventory accuracy and reducing member waiting time as well as future benefits in pharmacy accuracy, grocery freshness, software, CD and DVD authentication, and 30-second store checkouts."

He pledged to add an additional 400 RFID-using Wal-Mart stores by the end of this fiscal year.

"In the near future, customers may be able to enjoy advantages such as automatic warranty activation on electronics, freshness assurance on foods thanks to cold chain monitoring and enhanced product safety as a result of faster, more accurate recalls and better freshness monitoring," Ford said.

Ford even tried to make the argument that RFID?in a roundabout way?is helping the planet and the environment.

"Our focus on using RFID to improve in-stocks for our customers means eliminating extra trips they may make to our store or to others," he said. "On a daily basis, more than 24 million people shop our stores. If 100,000 extra trips are avoided by having items in stock, we will save customers $22.8 million a year in gas savings and reduce greenhouse gases by 80,209 metric tons."

Wal-Mart's influence among major U.S. businesses?and especially among consumers goods manufacturers and other retailers?is not to be underestimated. It's clear that a $345 billion retail chain can move markets, but Wal-Mart was one of the pioneers of RFID so signs of them pulling back from RFID?and there have been such signs, from time to time?could spell major troubles for RFID.

Just last week, EPCGlobal unveiled standardized product descriptors for RFID, a move that one EPCGlobal official said?for the first time?made business RFID returns-on-investment practical.

Wal-Mart issuing this statement from Ford?based on a speech he made this week in Florida?is intended to tell the industry to stick with RFID, at least a bit longer.