Japan moves closer to a reality of unmanned stores after successful RFID trial

Shoppers who scan a product tag will be presented with additional product information via digital shelf signage.

The Japanese government has taken its first steps to creating unmanned stores to address the labour and supply chain challenges in the country’s retail industry.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) has announced it will build on the successful pilot of a project which saw three convenience stores adding RFID tags to products to improve item-level inventory monitoring.

The project was launched in 2017 to address the labor shortages and cost increases resulting from Japan’s ageing population and declining birthrate, as well as reducing the burden on in-store staff created by supply chain issues from traceability and authenticity to wastage and returns.

The long-term ambition of the initiative is to enable stores to be entirely unstaffed, with RFID enabling customers to pay for their basket of goods automatically on leaving the store.

The RFID solution, which was created by Avery Dennison, allowed retailers like 7-Eleven Japan, FamilyMart, Lawson, Ministop, JR East Retail and the Japan Association of Chain Drug Stores to automatically scan the product tags, identify units that are approaching their ‘best by’ or ‘use by’ date, and credit the buyer with discounts on those items at the point of purchase.

In addition, shoppers who scan a product tag will be presented with additional product information via digital shelf signage.

“The impact of declining birthrate is a long-term challenge being felt across all industries and areas of society in Japan. Identifying and developing solutions to long-term challenges requires long-term investment,” said Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager of global RFID at Avery Dennison.

“Innovation is at the core of what we do at Avery Dennison, and by combining our materials science expertise and knowledge of RFID technology over the past 10 years we have been able to develop WaveSafe to meet the needs of the food industry. We are pleased to be a partner of the METI initiative offering a safe and reliable RFID tagging solution across all food products.”

METI is targeting full roll out of the RFID tags across all stores in Japan by 2025.

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