A Few words with Alexander Yashin, Operations RFID expert at LPP
Alexander Yashin is 31 years old, Russian, master degree in engineering of IT systems. He has joined fashion retail industry in 2007 as a cashier in a store. Since 2014 he has been working on RFID solutions in retail.
The Fashion Retailer: What is LPP?
Alexander Yashin: LPP is a fashion retail company based in Gdańsk, Poland and founded in 1991 by Marek Piechocki and Jerzy Lubianiec. It manages five brands: Reserved, Cropp, House, Mohito and Sinsay. At the end of 2017, LPP had 1,743 stores and revenues of €1,656 million.
LPP is a family business among fashion retailers meaning that owners share the same view of building the company for generations and not for quarterly profits with no risk of acquisition in the future. They focus on sustaining family environment and friendly atmosphere based on partnership. For example, Marek Piechocki, creator and co-founder of LPP, knows majority of crew personally and works with them at one desk. LPP is also one of the leaders in the fashion tech segment and makes huge investments in new, intelligent technologies ranging from designing clothes, to logistics, multichannel sales and post-sales customer.
LPP – World of Fashion Tech (click to watch the video)
TFR: What is your role at LPP?
AY: I joined LPP in the beginning of 2018 as an expert of RFID technology.
TFR: What are your main activities?
AY: My goal is to make sure that we use RFID the best way in every stage of supply chain. My part starts from discussion of assembling RFID tag at vendors factory and continues with working on inbound in DC and then establishing best practices of the processes in stores. Now I’m focusing on operations in stores.
LPP brands: Reserved and Sinsay
TFR: What changes regarding digitalization did you experienced at Inditex Russia during the 8 years you spent in the company? (new technology: RFID, Click & Collect, cashier free…). What was the most challenging one?
AY: I was participating in launching of e-commerce in Russian market for all brands of the group and roll-out of RFID stock management system in Zara. Unlike on-line store, RFID system is not only about technologies. Touching and improving majority of established process there is a challenge of changing the mindset of employees.
TFR: What´s your vision about the store of the future? (for example, stores with no stock, just for experience, with virtual reality). Do you feel operations will be totally automated thanks to machine learning (artificial intelligence), blockchain and other technology enablers within the so-called Fashtech?
AY: I’m interested in improving efficiency and it happens in most of the cases thanks to automation of processes. My vision is that majority of tasks will be performed by gadgets, systems and other similar solutions. Many routine processes will require only supervision while some tools will still be managed by people.
Regarding customer service, I think that everything depends on customers’ demand as young people prefer to deal with gadgets, so it could be several self-service POS in a store. But, on the other hand, other type of customers may prefer to talk with sales assistants about collections and products. Here, a store team needs to have the appropriate tools to help customers make the right choice.
Implementing RFID is another step in the evolution of LPP from a clothing company into a fashion tech company
TFR: Inditex was, probably, the first fashion leading retailer to implement RFID. What is RFID? Why retailers are implementing it?
AY: RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology was invented in the middle of last century and was first used in aviation. In general, RFID is a tool used to identify objects: planes, spare parts, garments, etc. In retail, this solution identifies items like barcodes do. But unlike barcodes, RFID leads you to higher level of stock management and opens horizons for other opportunities such as self-service, smart fitting rooms, map of sales, amongst others.
I would say that RFID is a “must have” for those retailers who want to move forward. It is getting more popular, increasing its demand, because today it is clearer how to use RFID in retail. Nowadays, everyone can read about successful examples of implementation RFID, but a lot of proofs of concept were required to find the right solution for those who were the first to implement it. RFID equipment, including tags, is a huge investment for a business, but costs are decreasing, and more and more companies are implementing RFID as an omnichannel enabler and a way to survive the retail transformation.
TRF: What is your “day in the life”?
AY: At LPP, I go to a store at 5-6 a.m. to do stock-tacking or inventory checking in collaboration with a store team or receive stock deliveries. We count items, verify and discuss results, work with products and analyze productivity. Most of devices and software users or processes that we create – are designed for stores. Visiting store allows me to identify real needs and get feedback on solutions already implemented. I also detect insights for continuous improvement.
TRF: What would you suggest to a student that wants to work in Operations in the fashion industry?
AY: I would suggest him/her to practice in a real environment. I’ve been working in a store for 1.5 years and it was a great experience.