The retailer that rocked the industry when it issued the RFID mandate heard 'round the world is taking a decidedly lower-key approach to its international expansion. As its first step toward extending RFID outside the United States, Wal-Mart will launch a Canadian RFID pilot project this fall. But this time, there will be no decrees. Participation is strictly voluntary.
The mega-retailer was scheduled to meet with 16 Canadian suppliers in late June to discuss its RFID rollout strategy. But for many of those suppliers, RFID will be nothing new. Most of the vendors expected to participate in the pilot are already shipping products to Wal-Mart in the United States or are involved in other RFID programs.
"The difference between what the U.S. [division] is doing and what [Wal-Mart Canada] is doing is that we'll keep our pilot small and controlled and it's on a voluntary basis," says Wal-Mart Canada spokeswoman Christi Gallagher. "At this point, when you consider the fact that Wal-Mart now has 300-plus suppliers involved in the U.S. RFID initiative, there is no reason for us to mandate. We already have suppliers coming to us asking when they can begin tagging merchandise."
The pilot will be based in Toronto and will be centered on Wal- Mart Canada's distribution center in Mississauga, Ontario, as well as 20 stores in southern Ontario. The project, which will use only Gen 2 RFID equipment, will run through 2007.