September 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Online retailers learn to live with that persistent problem of returns

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But there is a trend among some web retailers to use eBay to sell discounted and liquidated merchandise. 39.5% of survey respondents use eBay or other online auctions to sell returned merchandise that they don`t place back into inventory, a high number given the relative newness of the channel. Of those who do sell on eBay, 19.7% sell more than 50% of their returns in that venue, 7% sell 25% to 50%, 8% sell 10% to 25% of their returns and 65% sell less than 10%.

Split decisions

While some companies clearly prefer eBay to help dispose of returns that can`t go back into inventory, the survey shows that respondents are split on how effective eBay is in helping them to recover a higher proportion of the full retail price. Of those who sell returned merchandise on eBay, 37% say they recover less there than through salvagers or liquidators, while 36.1% say they recover more and 26.9% state that the proportion is about the same.

But whether a company uses outside help to expedite returns or help reduce returns-related expenses, the latest Internet Retailer industry poll shows that web merchants across all categories are looking for new and better ways to handle a return and increase the likelihood that the customer sending the merchandise back for a refund or an exchange will continue as a loyal shopper.

The survey shows that programs and policies such as purchase-online, return-to-store and including a pre-paid return label with each parcel shipped are accepted as mainstream industry practices.


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