Forty-two years ago, the introduction of barcoding forever changed retailing with a system that sped checkout and gave store managers a new tool to track their stock. Retail is on the cusp of another equally momentous change that could even sound the death knell for the black and white bars. RFID (radio frequency identification), or barcodes on steroids, as some retailers call it, is gaining favour with retailers looking to boost sales, streamline inventory management, checkout and security. RFID tracking technology lets retailers identify individual stock items and information wirelessly, without need for a line of sight. It involves small tags embedded in product price labels that emit a unique signal read by remote scanners. Software displays a range of information, including stock item description, quantities and in store location. Scanners read stock items tags from as far away as six metres and record hundreds of tags per second, allowing staff to count entire shelves in a single moment by simply walking around the store. Some stores find it cost-effective to install permanent RFID scanners to provide real-time monitoring of stock and build a picture of how customers move around the store. With more than 2,000 stores across Europe deploying RFID systems this year alone, retailers have seen gross margin increases of more than five percent. And as retailers embrace web stores and shipping, RFID is increasingly viewed as essential to maintaining an accurate view of stock managed at different locations. Watch this space. For more information visit www.vitag.co.nz.