REF 2021 Impact Case Study: Improved profitability despite growing cost of returns in online shopping

  • Jack, Lisa (Participant)
  • Sally-Ann Caroline Krzyzaniak (Participant)
  • Regina Frei (Participant)
  • Sit, Jason (Participant)


Description of impact

Following our ‘Buy Online Return in Store’ project and extensive engagement with industry, loss managers in major UK multiple retailers have reported that our findings have been used to influence senior management to implement changes in practice and processes. They have seen improved profitability through greater visibility of hidden costs of online returns and improved returns management through adoption of lean management and circular economy approaches. Further, retailers have moved toward integrating returns management into the wider strategic planning processes through implementing cross-functional teams, and changing returns reporting practices and returns policies. Based on our work, the international industry group ECR Retail Loss has changed its research focus and programme to emphasise e-commerce returns and has commissioned further work based on our findings.

Data scientists at one international clothing retailer have also used our cost model as a basis for the development of a new set of calculations for the cost of returns, identifying potential savings in excess of GBP10million. Total savings across members of ECR Retail Loss, a global membership organisation of major retailers, are estimated at GBP55 million in the two years following the report.
Impact statusClosed
Impact date20192021


  • REF2021