It’s beginning to look a lot like a black Christmas. And that’s a good thing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the latest Commerce Department report finds that retail sales rose 0.8% in November over the previous month, with overall sales for September through November up 7.8% from a year ago.

With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, most retailers are clearly focused on the steadily growing stream of shoppers moving past their cash registers on the way out of their stores.

But when the stream starts flowing back in the form of returned gifts and other items, will the normal processing channels be sufficient? Anyone who has driven on Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden, NJ, after a heavy rain will be able to appreciate the danger. Flooded highways cause traffic tie-ups. The same phenomenon can have a similar impact on supply chains.

Over at, ERP Market Analyst Derek Singleton makes the point that “managing returns is just as important as managing sales.” He identifies five best practices that companies should consider in developing a forward-looking reverse logistics strategy:

• Investing in reverse logistics systems;
• Outsourcing logistics operations;
• Accessing secondary markets;
• Offering recycling services; and,
• Preventing returns in the first place.

Implemented properly, reverse logistics can help companies increase customer satisfaction, reduce waste and recover revenue that otherwise would be lost. And it’s no small potatoes.

Singleton reports that retailers and manufacturers typically lose between 7% and 13% in sales revenues annually because of returns – that amounts to more than $40 billion each year. By handling returns efficiently, safely and with an eye toward maximizing potential profit, companies can add as much as 5% to their bottom line, he says. Read more at

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Thomas Derr

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