Will Retailers Charge for Returns to Promote Sustainability?

Returns are costly for both retailers and the environment. Could charging consumers to return products help both?

Could charging for returns be an untapped opportunity for retailers to promote sustainability and reduce the cost of overall returns?

Returned products harm the environment by wasting fuel and polluting the air and often need to be repackaged, the materials of which also get wasted.

According to an article by Leah Kirts of CNN, “estimated 10 billion pounds of returned products in the US become landfill waste each year.” Highlighting that many returns cannot be resold or recycled.

Furthermore, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2022 Consumer Returns in the Retail Industry survey, approximately $816 billion of products were returned in 2022. Of which $212 billion were e-commerce returns.

Charging for returns is a rare instance of environmental cause and business needs meeting for a common problem—returns are not good for the environment or businesses.

Charging for returns discourages consumers from returning products and encourages them to make smarter shopping decisions to ensure the product they want is right for them.

However, while sustainability is an increasing concern for shoppers, it begs the question if they are willing to sacrifice the luxury of free returns.

Many experts are willing to bet the answer is probably ‘no,’ suggesting they will likely search for alternative retailers that don’t charge for returns.

Offering customers free returns became a popular method of drawing shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, while it successfully drew in more shoppers, handling an increased volume of returns has given some retailers a headache.

According to an article by Tatiana Walk-Morris of Retail Dive, holiday returns rose 57% from 2021 to 2022.

Charging for returns is becoming increasingly common, but it is still highly controversial among shoppers.

Sellercloud’s software can help retailers reduce the friction of dealing with returns. With a wealth of shipping integrations, retailers can effortlessly source the best shipping rates for their needs.

Retailers can also track RMAs (Return Merchandise Authorization) and set up serial numbers so returns are easier to track and reduce fraudulent returns.

Furthermore, Sellercloud can help retailers better manage their inventory and warehouses, which in turn can reduce e-commerce returns.