COVID-19

Retailers have to figure out how to handle all our online returns

Andy Uhler Dec 14, 2020
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Packages are processed at a U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Oakland, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

Retailers have to figure out how to handle all our online returns

Andy Uhler Dec 14, 2020
Heard on:
Packages are processed at a U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Oakland, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Reverse logistics: That’s a fancy name for what a lot of us are going to be asking retailers to do this year. Namely, handle our online returns. And a new report from the real estate consultancy CBRE says we’re running out of space to put all those items we’ve sent back.

More online shopping, which the pandemic has accelerated, means more returns because, well, if you can’t try on a dress or test out a gadget before you buy it, it might be going back. Chad Autry at the University of Tennessee said that creates logistical challenges for the companies selling that stuff.

“Can something be gotten back into the supply chain as fast as if it were at a brick and mortar retail location?” he said.

Autry said a lot of times, it can’t. Some things have to be tested to make sure they still work.

And even the items that can go back into circulation for sale need to be stored somewhere. So, where is that space going to come from? John Morris is head of industrial, logistics and retail at CBRE, the group that wrote the study. 

“So you might see some retailers decide store seven in Chicagoland is going to be the store that all of the returns go back to and then we’ll process them from there,” he said.

Morris said those spaces would likely, for now, be run by third party logistics companies that already have the staff and systems to take care of that gift you got from your grandma that you’re just not into.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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