Money & Business

The Association That Helps Manage Your E-Commerce Returns

By / Mar 21, 2019 (Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

The Reverse Logistics Association is a group that represents the logistics for products after their initial sale—a business that, in the e-commerce age, is growing, quickly.

This might sound unlikely, but your Amazon and Walmart returns are a gold mine—at least in the right context.

The rise of e-commerce has encouraged the growth of businesses around returns and logistics management, creating opportunities for middlemen and resellers to buy returned goods on the cheap and resell them at a profit to discounters.

Previously, this might have meant products would go to firms like T.J. Maxx or similar retail-level discounters, but more recently, the logistics firms have gotten into direct sales—allowing the possibility for startups to buy entire pallets of random returns and flip whatever they receive.

Which, of course, means that there’s an association for that.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Tony Sciarrotta, CEO of the Reverse Logistics Association (RLA), noted this trend is possible thanks to the shifting habits of digital-minded consumers.

“People are buying things on a screen, and that’s not the same as in a store where you touch it and feel it,” Sciarrotta told the news outlet.

RLA, which dates to 2002, takes the lead on representing the industry that deals with what happens with goods beyond the point of sale—a sector that has become more interesting of late thanks to the high number of returns that e-commerce naturally encourages. Speaking to Real Estate Weekly, Sciarrotta  said that between 20 and 50 percent of all e-commerce goods get returned—which is creating new levels of demand for factories and similar logistical concerns.

“There will be a need for substantial investments [in reverse logistics],” Sciarrotta told the outlet. “The demand for higher recovery of returned goods is going to drive the need for operations and better space.”

That’s not to say managing the logistics is easy. In an era when returns are both free and prevalent, it creates issues of unnecessary burden—especially as consumers return products that they simply decide they don’t want.

But on the other hand, it creates new lines of business where people can thrive—and it has in the form of mom-and-pop sellers that simply repurchase returned stuff and prepare it for sale on sites such as eBay. It’s a business that has allowed garage-based entrepreneurs to thrive—and suggests that there’s a fascinating future for the return ecosystem as it grows.

Howard Rosenberg of B-Stock Solutions, a firm that sells returns wholesale, told Bloomberg that it’s proving to be a popular model that previously wasn’t possible.

“People are starting businesses because they now have the ability to buy this inventory,” he said. “What we’ve done is given them direct access.”

In the age of Amazon, the returns will keep coming—and RLA will help ensure those who manage the returns have a support system.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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