IN STORES and warehouses across America, they wait: towers of toys, scarves piled on scarves, box upon box of shoes. The official start of holiday shopping in America begins on “Black Friday” on November 25th. Retailers hope to sell more than $650bn of goods this season, roughly the annual economic output of Switzerland. Ideally, companies’ supply of products would precisely match demand for them. In reality millions of items will stay on shelves or get sent back after purchase—in all of 2015 Americans returned goods worth $261bn, out of a total $3.3trn sold. What happens next?
Some returned goods will be resold by the very same retailer, but many will not. By the time an item is returned it might be either damaged or stale, points out Steven Barr of PwC, an accounting firm and consultancy; shops might want to offer newer wares. And resale is not an option for the stacks of goods that are never sold at all.
For retailers and manufacturers, this is a big headache. Dealing with unwanted goods can amount to a tenth of the cost of making and distributing them in the first place. But for…Continue reading