2020 has changed the retail world in a lot of ways. Consumers became far more comfortable with online shopping than ever before. Meanwhile, physical stores had to lower their maximum occupancy drastically in many areas or close their doors entirely in others. Everyone — from Fortune 500 companies to small mom-and-pop shops — had to shift priorities toward digital shopping, curbside pickup, and other practices designed to minimize crowds. What about in-store returns?

While some stores stopped accepting returns entirely for a while, the concept has rebounded, and then some. We’ll explore the ways online shopping and other 2020 trends are shaping product return behavior into 2021 and beyond, and what this means for your brand.

Online Shopping Returns

Industry analysts have long understood that an increase in eCommerce sales leads to greater returns. The general consensus is that about 30% of products purchased online are returned to sellers, and that’s in a typical year. There are several reasons that pandemic online shopping returns may be even higher.

Adding to the returns chaos, some brick-and-mortar stores are allowing consumers to ship returns back to them. They’re hoping this will help keep foot traffic down, making it easier to maintain social distancing. Growth in BOPIS sales will likely increase online returns as well. If you’re not prepared to deal with it, all of this will add up to large amounts of returned merchandise clogging up your valuable inventory space.

In-Store Returns

The move toward eCommerce isn’t the entire story here. In fact, some digital-native brands like Bonobos, Casper, and Glossier are developing a physical presence with new brick-and-mortar stores. They will likely use these retail spaces to process returns as well as for in-person sales. One clear example is the new Amazon Fresh Grocery Stores, which now accept Amazon.com returns. This is in addition to Amazon’s return drop-off locations in traditional stores like Kohl’s and Whole Foods.

Plenty of brands that offer both online and in-person shopping also allow online shoppers to return or exchange products in stores. For these retailers, an increase in online shopping will likely lead to more in-store returns as people exchange the color or size of their purchases.

In short, the pandemic and its resulting changes in shopping habits are not likely to kill off in-store returns. If anything, the rise in eCommerce will likely mean your stores receive more returns, not fewer.

What to Do With Product Returns

As we’ve explored, returns and overstock are a fact of life for retailers and aren’t going away anytime soon. And for most brands, it simply isn’t worthwhile to take the time and effort required to remarket these items directly. Yet retailers can’t afford to let these products sit around, taking up space and capital. What can you do with this open-box merchandise?

In the past, some brands have elected to dump returned goods in a landfill or otherwise destroy them if they aren’t in perfect condition. As recently as 2017, this was a widespread problem and some retailers still continue the practice. The toll this takes on our environment cannot be overstated and conscious consumers cannot be overlooked. Fortunately, there’s a solution – an environmentally and fiscally responsible option.

Online Liquidation Auctions

Online liquidation auctions are the best answer to your returned inventory woes. Liquidating unwanted goods can keep these products from eating up valuable inventory space and also keep them out of landfills.

When you choose to liquidate your returned goods through B-Stock, you’ll get the best possible fair market price. It’s also a quick and painless process with an experienced partner and auction strategist on your side. Our online auction system offers you a global network of qualified business buyers, quick turnaround times, and options for companies both large and small.

Is your retail or eCommerce operation swimming in returned merchandise? Request a B-Stock demo today and learn about how we can solve your returned inventory problem.

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