We’ve been covering the state of the retail market in the midst of the pandemic, which forced stores around the world to shutter. With backlogs of orders and—for a time—only essential goods moving, a never-before-seen surplus of inventory emerged, preventing retailers and brands from getting the inventory out. But now that restrictions have eased and stores have reopened, there’s another type of inventory making its way into stores: returns.

 

With consumer and employee safety at the forefront of every retailer’s strategy, they’ve implemented methods such as face mask requirements, glass barriers, social distancing, and touchless payment methods in stores across the world. And, as retailers face the onslaught of excess merchandise from unsold or pre-ordered merchandise, they now also have to face—and decide how to deal with—returns from consumers who have been sitting on products for the past several months. 

 

While every company has adopted a different approach, the most common among those who are accepting consumer returns has been to extend their policies and allow customers to bring back merchandise that they purchased prior to the pandemic. What’s more, the clothing and accessories that they’re bringing into stores are also being quarantined from anywhere between 24 and 72 hours before it gets put back on the shelf or sales floor. Nancy Green, president of Old Navy, stated: “We’re quarantining returns that come into the stores right now. They go into a separate area for a period of time and then they get processed back into inventory that is available to sell as long as they’re not damaged.” Other methods of protecting the public include wiping down returns with hard surfaces, such as board games.

 

While retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Kohl’s have extended their return policies by 30 days to allow pre-quarantine purchase returns, some have placed restrictions to limit the same. Target, for instance, suspended returns between March 26 and April 26, and Costco and Walmart are currently not accepting returns of in-demand merchandise such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

For retailers, navigating the new normal—which includes an inevitable surplus of inventory and now consumer returns—can be not only challenging, but potentially devastating to their bottom line. This is where it helps to have a solution that extends beyond traditional clearance channels and liquidators. One such solution is a B2B marketplace for excess merchandise. If done right, they allow for higher pricing and a faster sales cycle than traditional methods. And the best way to do it right is by partnering with a secondary market expert.

Many retailers—nine of the top 10, among dozens of other big names—are working with B-Stock to build their own B2B marketplaces in order to auction bulk quantities of returned and excess apparel to business buyers around the country. These marketplaces are customized, integrated, and scaled based on the retailer’s unique needs and allow total control over who is buying the inventory and how it enters the secondary market. A marketplace also enables a consistent auction cadence: you can list every week, versus letting inventory pile up in your warehouse until the end of the season. 

Let us show you how you can harness the value of the secondary market to offload your surplus by scheduling a demo today.

You can also check out our webinar: Solving for Excess Apparel, During + Post COVID.

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