Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
While many people used online shopping as a distraction during the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the prominent results has been an influx of merchandise returns—boosting cost and complexity for some retailers.
Typically, when shoppers purchase clothing in stores, they only return about five to 10 percent of what they buy. However, that number is much higher for e-commerce and upward of 50 percent for fashion retailers, according to consulting company Newmine. Returns have become a “trillion-dollar problem” affecting the entire value chain from operational to supply chain and inventory to customer experience.
To help combat pricey returns while still keeping customers happy, women’s workout and athletic apparel brand Title Nine partnered with Newmine and as a result, the brand reduced merchandise returns by 18 percent without adding additional headcount to its team.
Title Nine, a northern California company owned and run by women since 1989, found that it “lacked visibility” on why customers were returning a sizable amount of merchandise, according to Chrissy Ginieczki, Title Nine CEO.
“When we started our return journey over three years ago, it was extremely manual, with one person paying attention to it,” Ginieczki said. “We continued to see return rates rising, and as returns are the most expensive and time-consuming element of the entire life cycle of product and retail, it became a priority to address.”
To stop the problem in its tracks, Title Nine implemented Newmine’s Chief Returns Officer, a retail intelligence platform focused on solving merchandise returns.
“As an early adopter of Chief Returns Officer, Title Nine embodies their own value and mindset of innovation,” said Navjit Bhasin, Newmine CEO and founder. “At a time when few retailers were talking meaningfully about reducing returns, they saw the opportunity to be on the leading edge of innovation, and we’re proud to have helped them achieve incredible results.”
Before the partnership, returns reduction was a “very manual process” and Title Nine could not adjust products the way they can today with “such a small team.” However, with the implementation of the Chief Returns Officer, Title Nine was able to lower return rates in 90 percent of all product categories and increase accessibility and visibility into its data.
Additionally, the Chief Returns Officer offers multiple tools that help Title Nine in its daily operations.
“The WatchList is one of the critical tools we use in our day-to-day operations of our merchandising teams,” Ginieczki added. “For example, we have a top-selling item that was starting to have some challenges. We caught it in Chief Returns Officer, and as a result of putting some fit comments on that product, we were able to watch it and see a 10 percent decrease in the return rate of that product.”
Implementing a new tool or software can sometimes be difficult and overwhelming. However, Ginieczki said the solution is “quite simple” to use.
“Within the dashboards, you have the easy drill-down capability to get to the information needed very quickly,” Ginieczki added. “So even for non-technical users, it was a low bar of entry to use the tool effectively.”
Now, Title Nine has visibility of its returns and has shifted how it evaluates business.
“Returns are really the early warning system for customer satisfaction and what is driving their satisfaction or dissatisfaction in a product, so paying attention to that can pay dividends,” Ginieczki added. “Since returns play a significant part in retail, moving the dial just a few basis points can net millions to the bottom line.”