Reverse Supply Chain is just as it seems.  It is what happens to items once they are in the customer’s possession.  Forward supply chain is the process if designing, manufacturing, and selling items.  But after the selling takes place, what happens to these items?  As the holiday season, or as many refer to the “shopping season”, is among us, companies cannot ignore the reverse supply chain part of their business.

Most particularly during the shopping season are returns.  Many consumers have found the ease of making returns.  It doesn’t matter the reason. Whether the item came broken, incomplete, or if it was just the wrong size, or simply something the customer didn’t like.  Buying and returning have become a common pair.  Returns have become so convenient, that customers rely on that ease when making their purchases.  “Oh I can just return it if….  I don’t like it. If it doesn’t fit.  If I end up not being able to afford it.” These are all common phrases that one may hear from customers are shopping.

Now with e-commerce shopping, many consumers can be picky about where they do their shopping.  And the returns policy is a big factor in where they choose to shop.  Many shoppers won’t patronize a store that has a difficult returns policy.  That goes for online retailers as well.  Consumers will often choose an online store that has free returns.  Additionally, ones that include free return shipping, or where you can easily return items to a nearby store.

However, as seen in this article, “Free Returns aren’t ‘Free”, returns may be free for the shopper, but are costing the retailer.  The cost of shipping the item back (often for free) and the time, labor and logistics of recovering the returned item are all at the cost of the retailer.  But it’s not that simple.  Many items that are returned, can’t easily be re-stocked, so whether they need repair, repackaging, or liquidated out to another provider, these are all reverse supply chain issues that need to be taken care of and thought of during the height of the season.