LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Online sales are expected to hit a record $207 billion in the U.S.
But there could also be a record number of returns this year. Every year, a big chunk of those returns end up in landfills.
Online purchases have never been a bigger part of the holiday, likely to top 25% of sales.
But here’s the more startling number: the eCommerce return rate is 25%. One of every four items purchased online is sent back, compared to about 8% for a physical store.
“You’ll see all their returns come back they pile up, they sit and it often quarterly or twice a year, they might liquidate them for pennies on the dollar or even potentially destroy them,” said Tobin Moore.
Moore is the CEO of Optoro which helps companies solve the problem of a tsunami of returns.
A massive warehouse outside Nashville is one of three dozen Optoro uses across the country processing merchandise for sellers like American Eagle, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and others.
Workers use Optoro’s software to check the merchandise, ensuring a refund then relisting the product for a new sale.
The items will never go back to the retailer’s warehouse, they’re held there until sold they’re again.
In Houston, Abby McDonald used Happy Returns a service that collects customers’ unwanted goods for hundreds of companies that sold them. It’s postage and box are free, a QR code is all you need.
“It’s close to my office and made it easy to drop off at lunch for free,” she said.
Paper Source locations like this are among 3,800 collection points nationwide an average of 20 returns from multiple sellers shipped in a single box reducing waste and expediting turnaround time. And it increases foot traffic for the store collecting the goods.
The clothing store Everlane takes more than 70% of its unwanted items back through Happy Returns.
“The speed and efficiency with which we can get the product back on the shelf and available for another customer is really integral to our overall business model. It obviously impacts our sales and our revenue,” said Katina Boutis with Everlane.
Almost 6 billion tons of return inventory (or returned items) will end up in landfills after the holiday season.
“Our technology connects every returned item, no matter the condition to its next best home as efficiently as possible.”
Minimizing shipments and getting the product back into stock quickly is a win for buyer, seller and the planet.