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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While American food retailers are moving forward with global scanning standards and data synchronization, emerging technologies such as the electronic product code (EPC) and radio frequency identification (RFID) are being deployed at a slower pace, according to "2005 Technology Review Highlights," a new report from the Food Marketing Institute.
Technology spending continues to be a priority for supermarket companies; 81 percent of the study's respondents reported setting their 2005 budgets at the same levels or higher than in 2004. In addition to general system upgrades, areas of primary investment include point-of-sale enhancements, store communications, and security.
"U.S. retailers seeking to promote global trade, improve operating efficiencies and enhance the customer shopping experience recognize the importance of investing in technology," stated Patrick Walsh, senior director, industry relations, FMI. "It's a great success story for the industry that 100 percent of the companies surveyed dedicated funding to comply with Sunrise 2005 scanning standards and more than 95 percent are investing in systems such as self-checkout and biometric identification."
The report’s key findings include:
--Biometric Technology: Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of companies surveyed use or plan to use biometric technology at store level. Of companies already using biometrics, 100 percent are using fingerprint recognition technology in ways such as customer payment at POS, attendance reporting, and security/identity verification.
--EPC/RFID: Although the entire food supply chain is focused on the efficiencies to be realized by this process, only 23 percent of companies report having a designated individual or team examining EPC/RFID applications -- down from 48 percent in 2004. The EPC is a unique serial number embedded in a microchip or tag attached to each individual product, case pallet or other item. The code can be read by RFID sensors over short distances.
--Electronic Training: About 70 percent of companies offer computer training programs and another 15 percent plan to offer such training in the coming year.
--Emerging Technologies: Mobile consumer transaction capability at point-of-sale, which allows shoppers to be checked out away from the checkout line, rose 24 percent from 2004. Installation of interactive customer kiosks, which provide product locations, coupons, recipes, and other services, rose by 20 percent.
--Self-Checkout: Nearly 56 percent of companies use self-checkout systems, up from 38 percent in 2004. Designed to enhance the shopping experience, usage of self-checkout systems have grown dramatically over the past five years -- a trend that is expected to continue.
--Store Communications: E-mail is now the most common way stores and their corporate headquarters communicate -- 96 percent use this method. Grocers using the Internet at store level increased as well, up to 78 percent from 66 percent last year.
--Sunrise 2005 All retailers surveyed can now scan the EAN. To facilitate global trade, the Uniform Code Council (UCC) selected January 2005 -- termed "Sunrise 2005" -- as the deadline for North American retailers to be capable of scanning the 13-digit European Article Number (EAN) bar code and store 13 digits in their database.
Other areas surveyed in this year's report include the return on investment for self-checkout, payment card data security efforts, electronic commerce, and telework/telecommuting efforts.
Data from 2005 Technology Review Highlights is based on a survey of information technology executives at 28 food retail and wholesale companies representing 6,724 U.S. supermarkets.