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Marks & Spencer extends RFID tagging in stores

U.K. retailer to expand use of the technology for tagging clothing, aiming to improve the accuracy of its stock.

Marks & Spencer plans to extend item-level radio frequency identification tagging of clothes, following successful trials in 42 stores.

The major U.K. retailer is aiming to use RFID tags to help achieve its goal of 100 percent stock accuracy. Tagging its merchandise will help ensure that the right goods and sizes are in the right stores, thereby meeting demand.

"Our clothing RFID work is a good example of how we are using new technology for increased business efficiency and customer service," James Stafford, head of clothing RFID at M&S, said at the company's interim financial results presentation last week. "Stock accuracy has improved, and the customers have commented on the more consistent availability of sizes."

M&S has been one of the U.K. pioneers in using RFID tags in the retail sector. It first tested the tracking technology on men's clothing in its High Wycombe store in 2003.

The RFID tags are contained in throwaway paper labels attached to, but not embedded in, a variety of men's and women's clothing items in stores. M&S uses scans garment tags on the shop floor; portals at distribution centers and stores' loading bays enable rails of hanging garments to be scanned as their pushed through.

A spokeswoman for M&S told that item-level RFID tagging of certain ranges of clothing will now be rolled out to another 80 stores in the spring of 2007.

"We are tagging a variety of complex sizing items, such as men's suits and women's trousers and skirts--anything where you can have a wide variety of clothing sizes," she said.

M&S is also looking at extending RFID tagging to other clothing departments in the fall of 2007, she added.

Andy McCue of reported from London.