The ease with which merchandise can be returned to a retailer has been an absolute blessing to the consumer. The retailer? Not so much.

Retail returns have been steadily increasing in recent years for a few reasons. One, consumers have been migrating to online shopping, where color, fit and quality aren't always accurately represented. Two, retailers are offering more generous returns policies in the race for consumer loyalty—creating an endless loop of "try before you buy." Three, free shipping and pre-paid return labels, aka The Zappos Effect, have spoiled consumers.

The returns numbers are staggering. U.S. consumers returned an estimated $428 billion in merchandise to retailers in 2020, which represented approximately 10.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Online returns are almost double that, clocking in at 18.1 percent. And while e-commerce drew $565 billion in sales in 2020—heightened by a pandemic that shifted online shopping from convenience to necessity—almost $102 billion of that merchandise was returned.

Returns aren't just costly for retailers—in both lost revenues and lost customers—but they can also create logistical nightmares when not properly managed from an inventory standpoint.

Download the whitepaper to discover how Exenta's automatic system provides inventory visibility to optimize retail operations and reverse reverse logistics.

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