M&S invests in returns management

Ahead of a big week for Marks & Spencer (M&S), as it prepares to announce its all-important Christmas trading results, the retailer has revealed a new deal with Clipper Logistics for managing product returns.

The supply chain solutions provider, which already works closely with the likes of Asos and John Lewis, will play a key role for M&S by consolidating stock returned from stores, and items directly returned by online customers.

Under the terms of the contract, which sees M&S utilise Clipper’s Boomerang solution and service offering, items will be checked to ensure they are in appropriate condition for future resale, while customer refunds will be processed in a timely fashion. The service will be run from Clipper’s e-fulfilment facility in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire.

Paul Burns, head of operations at M&S, commented: “Creating a seamless experience for our customers is really important.

“We look forward to working closely with Clipper to provide an efficient and convenient service that works for our customers and our business.”

Tony Mannix, CEO of Clipper, said the more comprehensive returns management deal arranged with M&S comes after working with the company for a number of years.

He  added: “Clipper has made a name for itself as one of the UK’s leading value-added logistics solutions providers, with an unparalleled reputation in retail supply chain, and I look forward to helping Marks & Spencer achieve their goals.”

New research from LCP Consulting indicates that the continued growth in online shopping will see over £2.5 billion of unwanted Christmas presents returned to retailers following this Christmas trading period.

LCP, which works with some of the UK’s largest retailers, estimates that £17 billion of online orders were placed over the 2017 festive period, and bases its prediction on the assumption that the average UK retail sector returns rate is 15-20%.

Returns are clearly a major challenge for retailers in today’s digitally-influenced market, and an issue that M&S and others have realised they need to address via a dedicated management solution.

Stuart Higgins, director for retail at LCP, noted: “The price retailers have to pay for online growth is pretty substantial.

“Not only will this flood of returns put additional demands on retailers back-end operations during their busiest online sales week of the year, it will also impact their stores as a third of returns will come back into stores just as they’re launching their Christmas and January sales.”

M&S is one of a wide range of UK retailers, including Joules, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, set to reveal Christmas trading figures this week, in what will provide a major indication of the health of the UK retail market at its most crucial period of the year.