Returns are expensive. A new study by the EHI consulting institute examines retailers’ way of handling returns.

EHI experts estimate the costs of processing a return at an average of ten euros. It is therefore understandable that many companies try to resell the returned articles as class A merchandise. Just over half of the surveyed retailers can supply 80 percent or even more products to a new owner in this way. The downside: almost every tenth entrepreneur is unable or only occasionally able to resell his returned items. “Dealers want to keep returns as low as possible, of course, but this is not always possible. With returned goods, the condition of the articles does not always permit a resale as class A merchandise,” says Andreas Kruse, Director Business Development at EHI.

Returns are associated with costs and effort for companies

Returns are time-consuming. The goods must be inspected during quality control. In addition, there are costs for the transport, administration and preparation of the items. Not to forget the financial costs for re-storage, customer service and the space for returns management. Therefore, in certain cases, almost a third of entrepreneurs asks buyers to keep the goods free of charge and not to return them. Because if articles cannot be processed and marketed again, a return would be more economically harmful than to kind of give the piece away. To ensure that goods are not returned in the first place, retailers rely primarily on comprehensive advice in the web shop, high product quality and secure packaging. Contact options for personal advice and online consulting services also play an important role.

3.35 billion parcels shipped in 2017

How large is the volume of shipments sent though? According to the Bundesverband Paket und Expresslogistik, which represents the courier, express and parcel industry (CEP), around 3.35 billion shipments were shipped in 2017. Dr. Florian Gerster, Chairman of the Bundesverband Paket und Expresslogistik: “In the meantime, CEP companies in Germany transport eleven million items per day of delivery and are in contact with around six million customers. This is an enormous service that is constantly improving thanks to direct communication with customers. The CEP sector is thus also setting the necessary digital course for the future – by 2022 more than 4.3 billion consignments are expected to be transported in Germany every year”.

Amazon makes headlines with the destruction of returns

The actual number of returned parcels can only be estimated, exact figures are not available. The last concrete figure is an estimate by the Arbeitsgruppe Retourenforschung at the University of Bamberg, which reported around 250 million returns for 2013. According to these researchers, clothing is returned particularly frequently, goods from the consumer electronics sector are sent back much less frequently. Media and books have very low return rates. The handling of returns has made negative headlines in recent weeks. Among other things, Wirtschaftswoche and Der Spiegel reported that Amazon is destroying goods and returns as good as new on a massive scale.


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