Toronto-based ReturnBear, Canada’s first end-to-end returns solution, has announced a national expansion with packaging-free drop-off locations, enhanced product offerings, and new merchant partners.
Founded in the fall of 2021, ReturnBear is a reverse logistics solution that simplifies the retail return process for the consumer and retailer.
With the most recent announcement, consumers can now drop off their returns at one of ReturnBear’s kiosks at Cadillac Fairview (CF) malls across Canada. Some of these include Toronto’s Eaton Centre, Polo Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Promenade St Bruno in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec, and Richmond Centre in Richmond, British Columbia.
ReturnBear’s merchant partners include Numi, Franc, California Cowboy, and North Boys. Its newest merchant partner is Mint Green Group, home to household brands such as K-Swiss.
“You as a consumer can go and drop into one of these malls, and without needing to package your goods or print out a shipping label, you can drop off that good and get an immediate refund on the spot,” said Sylvia Ng, chief executive officer of ReturnBear.
ReturnBear’s end-to-end returns solution breaks down into two components: its software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution and the logistics, Ng said. As part of the company’s expansion, its SaaS solution has been updated to include a merchant admin app to manage return operations.
“So as you can imagine, different merchants and retailers have different return policies. Some may say that was on sale only, so you can’t ask for a refund, you can only ask for an exchange. Stores have different return windows, so we make all of those rules very easy for you to manage within our system, and that’s new,” she said.
In addition, the updated solution also includes analytics to monitor return trends, a consumer experience design to make self-serve returns quick, and a tablet application to allow ReturnBear kiosk staff to efficiently accept returns and process exchanges, refunds, or store credit.
On the logistics end of things, ReturnBear will do quality assurance on behalf of the retailer. This means when the company gets the goods back, they will unpack, refold, refurbish and repack the product to match the retailer’s guidelines.,
“So they’re getting back stuff that’s ready to sell, and it’s super, super fast,” she said.
Over the course of the pandemic when online shopping rates rose, retail returns have become an growing problem in the Canadian market. An NRF report revealed that U.S. retail returns jumped to an average of 16.6 per cent in 2021 compared to 10.6 per cent just one year ago. That adds up to more than US$761 billion of merchandise that wind up back at stores and warehouses.
“Pandemic e-commerce has blown up. And unfortunately, especially with apparel, you don’t get to try things on so you are bound to make mistakes with your ordering,” Ng said. “In Canada, I think we have a unique problem because we’re so geographically dispersed as a nation. It’s super expensive for us to be shipping goods around. Retailers are having a hard time with the burden of the cost of these extra returns that are happening because of COVID.”
She added that instead, retailers will just throw the goods away rather than take them back into their systems because it’s ultimately cheaper. And on top of the cost and inconvenience of the process, the added waste is also damaging to the environment.
However, with the latest drop-off locations at malls, consumers can simply return their goods at ReturnBear kiosks, allowing ReturnBear to repackage them and easily send them back to the retailers.
“Retailers are getting the goods at a place that’s convenient to them. So it’s better for the environment because there isn’t an extra leg, but it’s also better for everybody because now the cost is no longer placed on the merchant. And with that, they can spend the extra efforts on taking the returns back and putting it back into the system.”