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E-Tailers Trying To Make Returns More Sustainable With Online Sales Expected To Hit Record High

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – With online sales expected to hit a record $207 billion in the United States, there could also be a record number of returns this year.

Every year, a big chunk of those returns end up in landfills – enough to fill 23 million refrigerators or 6,400 747s.

It's why e-tailers are trying to make returns more sustainable.

"You'll see all their returns come back, they pile up, they sit and it often - quarterly or twice a year, they might liquidate them for pennies on the dollar or even potentially destroy them," said Tobin Moore.

Moore is the CEO of Optoro, which helps companies solve the problem of a tsunami of returns.

Workers use Optoro's software to check-in the merchandise, ensuring a refund before re-listing the product for a new sale.

"We're just here to grade it and make sure that it has a UPC and make sure that it has the correct description," said Rocsana Pantaleo, an inventory specialist.

These items will never go back to the retailer's warehouse. Instead, they're held in Optoro's warehouse until sold again.

In Houston, Abby McDonald used Happy Returns, a service that collects customers unwanted goods for hundreds of companies that sold them. It's postage and box free – a QR code is all you need.

The clothing store Everlane takes more than 70% of its unwanted items back through Happy Returns.

"The speed and efficiency with which we can get the product back on the shelf and available for another customer is really integral to our overall business model. It obviously impacts our sales and our revenue," said Katina Boutis with Everlane.

And it impacts the environment.

Almost 6 billion tons of return inventory will end up in landfills after the holiday season.

"Our technology connects every returned item, no matter the condition to its next best home as efficiently as possible," said Moore.

Minimizing shipments and getting the product back into stock quickly is a win for buyers, sellers and the planet.

Nearly 90% of online customers say they won't buy again if the return process is difficult.


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