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The Food Marketing Institute released two statements yesterday:

  • ”American food retailers are moving forward with global scanning standards and data synchronization. They are implementing emerging technologies such as the electronic product code (EPC) and radio frequency identification (RFID) at a slower pace, according to a new report from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), 2005 Technology Review Highlights.

    “Technology spending continues to be a priority for supermarket companies — 81 percent of 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.’”

    Among FMI’s key findings:

    • Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of the companies surveyed use or plan to use biometric technology at store level. For 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.

    • The Electronic Product Code (EPC)PC is a unique serial number embedded in a microchip or tag attached to each individual product, case pallet or other item. Using a proven technology called radio frequency identification (RFID), the code can be read by sensors over short distances. 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.

    • 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.

    • Nearly 56 percent of companies use self-checkout systems, up from 38 percent in 2004. Designed to enhance the shopping experience, self-checkout systems have grown dramatically over the past five years — a trend that is expected to continue.

  • FMI also said that “retailers should not need to pay for help from third parties to collect their share of the settlement funds from the landmark Visa-MasterCard antitrust litigation finalized in June 2005.

    As the settlement forms are now being distributed, firms are contacting many FMI members and offering to help them complete the paperwork for a fee. “We would like retailers to know that these firms have no official role in the settlement and are using this process for their own financial gain,” FMI CEO Tim Hammonds said.

    The forms are designed to be user-friendly. Retailers can receive guidance at no charge from the Claims Administrator the Garden City Group, the law firm Constantine Cannon, which represented the plaintiffs, or FMI.

    Since FMI was a lead plaintiff in this class action lawsuit, all members may be eligible to collect a share of the settlement. FMI members and other merchants that participated in the case are eligible if they accepted Visa or MasterCard debit or credit cards at any time between October 1992 and June 2003.

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