Tyco's Retail Performance Briefing Center
Last week I attended the grand opening of Tyco’s Retail Performance Briefing Center in Boca Raton, FL. The new center, built as part of an overhaul of Tyco’s offices, is impressive and well worth a look. During my visit I came to realize just how far we’ve come in our ability to monitor events in our stores, and creative ways we, as retailers, can improve top and bottom line results. Not all the technologies in use are new, but their usage is becoming more sophisticated, with the promise of more integration with each other to manage store performance.
Here’s a quick overview of what I saw and what I believe it means for retailers:
Retailers have moved to EAS source tagging, just as we’ve done with our price tickets. To date, 40 billion items have been source tagged, and the number is (obviously) rising daily. For hard goods, the deactivation panels are now located under the checkout counter, instead of on top: Tyco considers this less intrusive for customers, and our credit cards will certainly appreciate not being demagnetized. In fact, the company is working with a partner to have the deactivation panels placed inside grocery scanners, making them more efficient for both store personnel and customers. What I didn’t realize is that those same EAS tags can be re-activated if a product is returned. This certainly saves labor while keeping the store secure.
The pedestal readers most typically found at store doors for LP purposes have evolved as well. They are now dual-technology: including both EAM (arguably the better technology for LP, but most definitely the legacy technology) and RF, which is certainly the wave of the future and has more uses than just LP. Further, the pedestals can also do some inbound work detecting jammers and foil booster bags in the possession of people entering the stores with not-such-good intentions. The pedestals will sound different audio alerts depending on the event, and are programmable by the retailer.
Video is also maturing rapidly. The new cameras are all High Definition IP devices and can be bought in pan/tilt/zoom or single-direction configurations. Their uses are many: including the obvious perimeter security, slip-and-falls, and LP. Perhaps more interesting is because of the HD capability the cameras can be “aware” of irregular events and zoom in to observe them, pretty much as they occur. At that point, they can generate an alert to a mobile phone or desktop.
We’ve talked often of videos used to monitor check-out line lengths and dwell time in front of end caps (to help determine out of stocks). But a new concept brought to bear was the notion of using those same monitors as task management tools. One example cited was measuring dwell time of employees actually setting up the end caps. Another pretty cool task management application for Convenience Stores is to track traffic paths to ensure employees are making fresh coffee in a timely fashion.
Access Control applications have also become far more sophisticated, especially for Convenience Stores. To avoid traffic congestion on roads, the best time to make deliveries is overnight, but retailers are obviously loathe to have payroll in the stores to just wait for delivery trucks. With a smart key fob in the hands of a truck driver, a lock can be opened, alarm disarmed, and lift gate opened in one move, with the reverse occurring when the delivery is complete. I thought that was a good labor saver, and the videos remain in place to insure no theft occurs during the delivery
Finally, no discussion of Tyco is complete without a deeper dive into RFID. This application was set up and presented by Macys. We seem to have gone beyond the hype cycle into finding some practical and useful applications for the technology. Scanning with portable scanners is quick enough that an area count can be accomplished at somewhat stunning speeds. This “partial cycle count” would not be used to true-up the books – it would simply be used to confirm that the correct size/color mix is on the floor. If the floor count varies significantly from the book count, an alert would be generated to go find the merchandise – it’s obviously in the store somewhere – or to remove items that should not be in the area where the count occurred. I must say, I was very impressed by scanning speeds and perhaps for the first time, I understood how RFID could bring benefits without fixed readers covering the entire store floor. I’m not sure I would automatically generate a replenishment order if the product wasn’t where I thought it was, but I’d sure generate an alert to send store personnel to go look for it. It could be as simple as saying “Time to replenish the floor from the back room.”
I’m really intrigued by the notion of bringing all these disparate in-store events together into an action plan for in-store personnel. Executives from Reflexis have talked to me before about this concept. Reflexis is indeed a Tyco partner and seeing the concept in action was eye opening.
The bottom line is the briefing center is a great new asset for Tyco and well worth a visit if you’re in the Boca area. I learned a lot in a few short hours, and think you might was well. If you go, let us know what you think. We were definitely impressed.