WASHINGTON -- A survey of food retailers by the Food Marketing Institute here revealed that 23% of respondents still cannot handle 13-digit EAN-13 bar codes from outside North America at the database level.
But results of the survey, released Sept. 15 in a report titled "Technology Review Highlights 2005," also indicated that 100% of respondents were capable of scanning EAN-13 bar codes at the point of sale.
FMI e-mailed surveys asking questions about a wide range of technology initiatives to about 200 member companies in April and received responses from 28 retailers and wholesalers representing 6,724 stores, according to Stacy Fitzgerald-Redd, FMI's senior manager, supply chain and technology, who helped compile the report.
GS1 US (formerly Uniform Code Council), Lawrenceville, N.J., set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2005 -- the so-called 2005 Sunrise deadline -- by which retailers in North America were expected to be able to both scan EAN-13 bar codes and process them in databases (in addition to handling standard 12-digit UPC bar codes). This enables a smoother flow of products sourced from outside North America.
In a presentation in June at GS1 US' U Connect Conference, Alan Garton, director, channel development, general merchandise, retail, GS1 US, said that the inability to process EAN-13 codes was observed mostly at small to midsize retailers. But Fitzgerald-Redd said she believes most retailers who still can't process EAN-13 codes at the database level will correct that by next year.
The 2005 Sunrise initiative encouraged, but did not require, retailers to upgrade their systems to scan and process 14-digit bar codes, which are needed for a variety of emerging technologies. In the FMI survey, 65% of respondents said they are capable of scanning 14-digit bar codes, and 50% said they can handle the codes at the database level. In addition, 27% are planning to implement 14-digit scanning capability this year.
In other results, the FMI survey said that food retailers still don't perceive radio frequency identification (RFID) and the affiliated electronic product code (EPC) as "ready for prime time." Only 23% of respondents said that their companies had designated a person or team to examine EPC applications, compared with 48% that had done so in last year's survey.
Fitzgerald-Redd said the pullback in RFID interest was the "biggest surprise" of the report. She suggested it was the result of "problems reported in the pilots," such as misreads of tags and concerns about cost. "There are still bugs to be worked out, so they're not just throwing money at pilots," she said, adding that there is still considerable interest in the technology. (For more on RFID, see story, Page 88.)
Self-checkout lanes continue to proliferate, as 56% of respondents reported having the systems, a 47% increase over the previous year. While 60% of respondents rated the return on investment for self-checkout as positive, given its labor savings effect, a third said it was only neutral. The neutral rating, said Fitzgerald-Redd, reflects the fact that some customers still prefer to have produce handled by cashiers or covet the personal service cashiers provide. "Some shoppers are not as fond of self-checkout as retailers thought," she said.
In other survey results:
- Nearly two-thirds of companies surveyed use or plan to use biometric technology at the store level for such applications as payment, check cashing and attendance reporting.
- About 70% of companies offer computer training programs, and another 15% plan to offer them in the coming year.
- Fifteen percent of respondents without online shopping plan to offer the service.
- About one-third (31%) are actively engaged in data synchronization with trading partners, while 38% are planning to be.
- Consumer kiosk installations are up 20% over the previous year.
Asked about their overall IT spending, 46% of respondents said they will spend more in 2005 than the previous year, compared with 64% who said that last year. Moreover, 19% said they will spend less on IT this year, compared with 4% who stated that last year.