Returns are a huge problem for online stores – and therefore also for Amazon. Research by parcel delivery company DPD in 2020 showed that Dutch consumers return 13 percent of everything they order online. These products all have to be checked, repackaged and put back into circulation. The costs of this are often higher than the margin that a company makes if the product is still sold. Research by the NOS in 2019 showed that a return shipment costs a webshop on average 12.50 euros. Consumers return electronic equipment ordered online (9 percent), toys (2 percent) and – above all – fashion (41 percent) most often, the DPD survey showed. VPRO program Backlight showed last year that some of that clothing, when returned to the distribution center, goes into the shredder, or worse, is incinerated. With the increase in online shopping due to the coronavirus and the arrival of Amazon to the Netherlands in March last year, the number of returned items has only increased further. Amazon does not charge the customer for returns and even uses the phenomenon ‘returnless refunds‘ for certain products. If a seller checks this option, consumers get their money back without actually having to return a product.
Second LifeWhat will change now? Amazon presented two new programs on Wednesday (“liquidations‘ and ‘grade and resell‘), which should make it easier for companies selling their goods through Amazon to give products a second life. Parties that use Amazon’s web store are given the opportunity to resell returned products as ‘used’, at a lower price. The companies will also gain access to Amazon’s network of ‘resellers’, sellers who buy and resell returned products. The new programs will start in the United Kingdom and will expand to the United States, Spain, Germany and Italy later this year and next year.
There is a new possibility to sell returned products as ‘used’
“What to do with returned products is a challenge across the entire retail industry,” Amazon executive Libby Johnson McKee said in a response. “These new programs are examples of the steps we are taking to ensure that products sold on Amazon are put to good use and not thrown away.”
It should, McKee added, help accelerate a “circular economy.” “We hope these programs reduce the impact on the planet.”
While Amazon’s distribution centers are certainly not the only places where products are destroyed, ITV’s revelations were especially painful for Amazon. Founder Jeff Bezos’s company, who recently stepped down as CEO, has committed to self-imposed climate goals.
For example, the company has promised to run entirely on sustainable energy by 2025, in 2040 Amazon will even have to CO2– neutral working. At the same time, due to the rapid increase in online shopping, Amazon is increasingly seeing its negative impact on the climate.
One of the ways to combat this is to make the so-called last mile: The last bit a packet travels. Amazon is currently in the process of replacing its fleet of vans with electric ones.
The electric delivery vans are already being used in Amazon’s first Dutch sorting center in Rozenburg, which opened last month. Thirty at a time, they leave the sorting center every day, filled with parcels to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Haarlem.
Amazon’s return packages have to go through the shredder less often
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