WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. -- Edwards Super Foods here will complete its statewide rollout of electronic shelf labels early next year and is eyeing the technology for all its 74 stores.
"We're going to be, I think, the biggest single chain in America on this system," said Robert Zwartendijk, president of Ahold USA, Parsippany, N.J., which owns Edwards and five other U.S. supermarket chains.
The electronic shelf labels, now installed in about 17 Edwards stores, display price and other product information transmitted electronically. By February 1995, the chain expects to have all 32 Connecticut stores on line, according to Ahold. Edwards Super Foods declined comment.
The cost of the systems was not disclosed but industry observers estimate outfitting a single store with 15,000 of the plastic tags would top $100,000.
Edwards' rollout of the wireless system from Telepanel Systems, Toronto, is progressing at a rapid rate, industry observers told SN. The chain began installing the systems this summer in Connecticut, where item-pricing laws are waived for retailers with the systems.
Supermarkets operating in states that require the time-consuming task of item pricing have cited labor savings as a key potential benefit of electronic shelf-label technology. However, to realize that benefit, an item-pricing waiver has to be enacted and Connecticut is the only state to do so.
Zwartendijk told SN the potential labor savings were factored into Edwards' decision to go forward with the technology. "Of course we have been helped in Connecticut because of the law,"
he said. "Now we don't have to item-price and you can save on that to justify the whole investment."
About half of Edwards' stores are located in Connecticut with the remainder in New York and Massachusetts, where similar legislation regarding item pricing waivers is under review.
Pricing integrity is another important benefit of electronic shelf labels, say retailers who have tested them. Unlike conventional paper labels, electronic prices displayed at the shelf edge are drawn from the same data files that feed the point of sale; electronic transmission of data enables price changes to be made storewide instantly.
Other U.S. chains that have taken electronic shelf labels past the test stage are Vons, Arcadia, Calif., which has 15 stores on-line with plans for five more next year, and H-E-B Grocery Co., San Antonio, which may install up to 50 stores over a two-year period.
The systems in place at both Vons and H-E-B are from Electronic Retailing Systems International, Wilton, Conn., the only other North American vendor of electronic shelf-label technology.
Edwards Super Foods' parent company, Ahold USA also operates Bi-Lo, Mauldin, S.C.; Tops Markets, Buffalo, N.Y.; Finast, Maple Heights, Ohio; Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa., and Red Food Stores, Chattanooga, Tenn. The U.S. chains are part of the Dutch retail organization Ahold based in Zaandam, the Netherlands.