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Product returns: a growing problem for business, society and environment

Product returns: a growing problem for business, society and environment
Product returns: a growing problem for business, society and environment

Purpose: This article sheds light onto the increasing problem of product returns, which is exacerbated by growing e-commerce. Many retailers and academics are oblivious to the nature and scale of this challenge. Interdisciplinary research is needed to develop supporting theory, and cross-functional teams are required to implement measures addressing economic, ecological and social sustainability issues. Design/methodology/approach: The initial project adopted a multi-case study approach, whereby returns processes were mapped, vulnerabilities identified and a returns cost calculator was developed. Findings: Product returns processes are usually complicated, prone to internal and external fraud, inefficient and lack sustainability. They can generate considerable losses to the business, especially as returns data are often not systematically collected, monitored or reported to senior management. There are important implications for strategic and operational management, namely the need to develop a concept for Lean returns systems. Originality/value: Product returns are a unique and understudied but growing field in academic research, with only few publications over the last two decades. Yet the phenomenon is causing increasing problems in business and society. Robust solutions could achieve great financial and non-financial impacts.

Business strategy, Operations strategy, Retail sector, Reverse logistics, Supply chain management, Sustainability
0144-3577
1613-1621
Frei, Regina
fa00170f-356a-4a0d-8030-d137fd855880
Jack, Lisa
a6ce44ff-fb81-4997-a9fd-772225b587ce
Brown, Stephen
b4aaf64c-2032-4715-a9ea-ef5e604b5de1
Frei, Regina
fa00170f-356a-4a0d-8030-d137fd855880
Jack, Lisa
a6ce44ff-fb81-4997-a9fd-772225b587ce
Brown, Stephen
b4aaf64c-2032-4715-a9ea-ef5e604b5de1

Frei, Regina, Jack, Lisa and Brown, Stephen (2020) Product returns: a growing problem for business, society and environment. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 40 (10), 1613-1621. (doi:10.1108/IJOPM-02-2020-0083).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Purpose: This article sheds light onto the increasing problem of product returns, which is exacerbated by growing e-commerce. Many retailers and academics are oblivious to the nature and scale of this challenge. Interdisciplinary research is needed to develop supporting theory, and cross-functional teams are required to implement measures addressing economic, ecological and social sustainability issues. Design/methodology/approach: The initial project adopted a multi-case study approach, whereby returns processes were mapped, vulnerabilities identified and a returns cost calculator was developed. Findings: Product returns processes are usually complicated, prone to internal and external fraud, inefficient and lack sustainability. They can generate considerable losses to the business, especially as returns data are often not systematically collected, monitored or reported to senior management. There are important implications for strategic and operational management, namely the need to develop a concept for Lean returns systems. Originality/value: Product returns are a unique and understudied but growing field in academic research, with only few publications over the last two decades. Yet the phenomenon is causing increasing problems in business and society. Robust solutions could achieve great financial and non-financial impacts.

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IJOPM_Proof - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 29 April 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 9 June 2020
Published date: 9 June 2020
Keywords: Business strategy, Operations strategy, Retail sector, Reverse logistics, Supply chain management, Sustainability

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 440529
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/440529
ISSN: 0144-3577
PURE UUID: a8f260c1-f2ae-4b39-bcea-06f471c75a82
ORCID for Regina Frei: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0953-6413

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 06 May 2020 16:31
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 04:34

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Contributors

Author: Regina Frei ORCID iD
Author: Lisa Jack
Author: Stephen Brown

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