As retailers struggle to deal with holiday gift returns, some are turning to technology for faster, more sustainable options
Christmas may be in the rearview mirror, but now the country is entering a post-holiday tradition of making all those holiday gifts unwanted.
Withis expected to hit a record high this year, returns could reach new highs as well. But many retailers are not equipped to take back their products, with much of that return ending up in landfills every year.
That’s why some online retailers are now trying to help businesses cope with a tsunami of returns, while making product returns more sustainable.
One of those retailers is Optoro, whose CEO Tobin Moore said companies typically see their returns accumulate in warehouses before getting rid of them quarterly or twice a year.
“They could liquidate them for pennies on the dollar or even potentially destroy them,” he told CBS News correspondent Janet Shamlian, who visited a huge Optoro warehouse outside of Nashville, Tennessee. .
The amount of returned merchandise that ends up in landfills each year is enough to fill 23 million refrigerators or 6,400 Boeing 747s, according to Optoro and Environmental Capital Group.
Optoro’s facility in the Nashville area is one of three dozen the company uses to process merchandise for vendors like American Eagle, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and others. Workers use Optoro’s software to register the merchandise, provide a refund, and relist the product for a new sale.
“We’re just here to write it down and make sure it has a [bar code] and make sure it has the correct description, ”said employee Rocsana Pantaleo.
Instead of being sent back to the retailer’s warehouse, returned products are held by Optoro until they are sold again.
“They’re housed here. It’s the most efficient thing,” Moore said. “Wherever that good comes in, if you can put it back into storage from there, that means less shipping, fewer keys, less waste.”
And the process has to be efficient, as 89% of online shoppers say they won’t buy again if the return process is difficult, according to Optoro.
Online shopping has never been a bigger part of the vacation, with sales expected to hit a record $ 207 billion in the United States, likely exceeding 25% of sales., Adobe Analytics projects. But even more surprising is the ecommerce return rate: 25%, which means that one in four items bought online is returned, compared to around 8% for a physical store, according to Optoro.
In Houston, online shopper Abby McDonald used Happy Returns, a service that collects unwanted goods from customers for hundreds of businesses that have sold them. It’s free of postage and box-less, only requiring a QR code. McDonald returned a dress she had purchased online from the womenswear company, Draper James.
“It’s close to my office, which made it easy for me to go out to lunch and drop it off here for free,” she said.
Clothing store Everlane collects over 70% of its unwanted items through Happy Returns. Katina Boutis of Everlane said smooth feedback is critical not only for customers, but also for the bottom line.
“So I think how quickly and efficiently we can get the product back on the shelf and make it available to another customer is really an integral part of our overall business model,” she said. “This obviously has an impact on our sales and our income. “
Another winner is the environment. Nearly 6 billion tonnes of returned inventory will end up in landfills after the holiday season, Optoro says.
Minimizing shipping and putting product back in stock quickly is a win for the buyer, the seller and the planet.