Vinay Kamath

Chennai, Feb. 15

FROM July 1 this year, billing at the cash counters of the country's top retailers is expected to be faster and smoother. A clutch of prominent retailers, from FoodWorld, Spencers and Nilgiris to Pantaloon and Piramyd, has signed an agreement to accept only products which are barcoded at the suppliers' end.

At present, almost 70 per cent of the consumer products that organised retailers sell come from suppliers with EAN barcodes marked on their product packaging. For the rest 30 per cent, retailers themselves affix bar code stickers to ensure efficient billing as well as smooth movement at the back-end, adding to their costs. An EAN bar code is an internationally accepted specification which gives a company an universal country code, followed by the company and product code.

As Mr Gibson Vedamani, CEO of Retailers Association of India, points out, consumer billing has been fully automated at retail checkout counters using barcode scanners. Barcoding enables closer monitoring of stocks at retail outlets and warehouses so that retailers can take quick action to avoid overstocking. It also helps, he said, to monitor demand and develop reliable sales forecasts, based on which suppliers can quickly replenish stocks. "With common data pools based on EAN barcoding, suppliers will be able to exchange information early, there will be no data miss-match or need to upload data afresh," he said.

Mr K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman, ECR India, and VP, merchandising, Spencer's, said: "Mandating of EAN Coding by retailers under the auspices of ECR India, is a step towards taking Indian supply chain standards to international levels. It is useful in sensitising not only the suppliers but also some retailers who do not as yet realise the immense benefits that can be derived from this in tracking inventory, apart from the huge savings in cost coming from data accuracy and supplier alignment." ECR or efficient consumer movement is a globally practised business improvement concept that seeks to respond to consumer needs faster.

As of now, all the top consumer goods companies, save a few, barcode their products. The issue is more to do with the smaller and regional suppliers and this agreement is to push them towards barcoding their goods as well.

Retailers point out that with increasing product volumes and variants, receiving un-barcoded supplies leads to incurring avoidable costs, errors and delays.

They also complain of being unable to move towards full automation and linkages between the front-end (the point of sale) and the back-end (warehouse) operations.

In this backdrop, the top retailers have resolved that with effect from July 1, 2006, they shall not make purchases of any merchandise that does not carry EAN barcode nor sell any merchandise without the barcode.

Related Stories:
Retailers' body presses for compulsory barcoding
EAN takes barcoding to health sector
Now, EAN barcoding for garments
Barcoding gains pace in consumer goods

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 16, 2006)
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