Countdown begins to Wal-Mart's Latest EPC Milestone

December 14, 2004
More Than 100 Suppliers to Begin Tagging Cases and Pallets En Route to Dallas in January.
Contacts:
Gus Whitcomb or Christi Gallagher @ 479.273.4314

BENTONVILLE Ark., Dec. 14, 2004 – Next month, more than 100 of Wal-Mart’s suppliers,  some respected giants of industry and others progressive up-and-comers on many fronts, will begin shipping product cases and pallets bearing electronic product codes (EPCs) to three distribution centers in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

In preparation for heightened interest in the initiative, Wal-Mart wants to ensure consumers have the facts on its use of EPCs:

MYTH #1 … Everything in the store will be tagged.

FACT … Wal-Mart is not focusing on item-level tagging.  Instead, Wal-Mart is asking suppliers to put EPCs on cases and pallets used to transport these items.

At Wal-Mart stores, some electronic and bulkier items, such as computer printers or lawn mowers, will remain in their original cases when placed out on the shelf.  In those instances, a consumer awareness label bearing the EPC symbol will be affixed to the outermost packaging.  Consumers may choose to remove or keep the tag post-purchase.

At SAM’S CLUB locations, where buying bulk items is more common, shelf pricing labels with EPC symbols will complement consumer awareness labels on cases.

Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB will use the technology to improve merchandise availability for customers and members, respectively.

MYTH #2 … Wal-Mart will track me through EPCs on the products I buy.

FACT … EPCs contain no information about consumers.  They do contain the same code found on a product’s bar code plus a unique identifier to help tell one box of product from another.

Wal-Mart is using EPCs on the case and pallet level because they can help a retailer do a better job of having the right merchandise in the right place at the right time.

MYTH #3 … The term EPC is being used to keep consumers from knowing these are RFID tags.

FACT … RFID, or radio frequency identification, is the technology that powers EPCs.  Wal-Mart’s initiative uses passive RFID tags, meaning they have no internal power source and must be passed by a special reader that “wakes” the tag up so that it can transmit its product bar code information and unique identifier.

Wal-Mart uses “electronic product code” because it is the term for the information contained on the tag.  While some organizations have attempted to villainize RFID, the technology is a staple of life for many people who use toll tags or have theft prevention features built into their automobile keys.

MYTH #4 … Wal-Mart is secretly already using this technology nationwide.

FACT … Wal-Mart began an EPC pilot program in seven stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on April 30 of this year.  Signs were placed throughout the store notifying customers of the test and Wal-Mart conducted a local media outreach program to ensure customers were aware of the program.

This initiative is now being expanded throughout North Texas and South Central Oklahoma.  Specifically, EPCs will be used in 90 Wal-Mart stores and 31 SAM’S CLUB locations in Texas as well as 16 Wal-Mart stores and five SAM’S CLUB locations in Oklahoma. Consumer awareness signs will be on the doors of all facilities where EPCs are in use. 

MYTH #5 … Wal-Mart associates will lose their jobs because of EPCs.

FACT … We do not expect any associate to lose a job as a result of EPCs. Wal-Mart expects EPCs will allow store associates to spend more time on the sales floor with customers and less time in the stock room.

Wal-Mart does expect its distribution centers to become more efficient in the future.  The company has a long history of re-training associates to take on evolving responsibilities.

Consumers with additional questions about EPCs can request an information flyer from the customer or member service desk at any facility using EPCs.

About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM’S CLUB locations in the United States. Internationally, the company operates in Puerto Rico, Canada, China, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, Argentina, and South Korea. The company’s securities are listed on the New York and Pacific stock exchanges under the symbol WMT.