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FedEx, Happy Returns partner on 'return bars,' streamline reverse logistics

By A.B. Brown / / October 21st, 2020

  • FedEx is partnering with Happy Returns to offer in-person returns at more than 2,000 FedEx Office locations nationwide for Happy Returns' retail partners, according to an announcement Tuesday. Product returns without a box or label will be possible at most FedEx Office locations starting in October, according to an email from a Happy Returns spokesperson.
  • FedEx will use Happy Returns' technology to aggregate box-free returns into one shipment that is then sorted, processed and returned to each individual merchant — streamlining the reverse logistics process for participating shippers and reducing costs.
  • Happy Returns now has 2,623 locations nationwide for returns, with the addition of FedEx Office to its network. The move adds to the company's 500 pre-existing return sites, with locations in campus bookstores, office buildings, shopping malls and traditional retailers.

Dive Insight:

Happy Returns has quadrupled its number of drop off locations, called "return bars," at a time when e-commerce has grown, and so have returns. The solutions provider aims to decrease shipping costs for partners by consolidated returns into one shipment.

The Happy Returns, FedEx deal comes before peak season, similar to FedEx's partnership with Walgreens last year that also focused on returns. The need for reverse logistics solutions and technology came to the forefront this year, as return numbers in June were more akin to typical January levels.

The partnership brings Happy Returns' reverse logistics technology together with FedEx Office's brick-and-mortar locations, cutting down on the hefty costs typically needed to stand up a network independently.

From there, Happy Returns is able to sort and return products to individual brand fulfillment centers, utilizing its reverse logistics system. Products are shipped in reusable totes, enabling a reduction in cardboard waste and carbon, furthering sustainability and closed-loop goals as items make their way back to retailers.

During the pandemic shutdown, many retailers were unable to collect returns while their physical locations were closed. An effective reverse logistics plan keeps goods flowing, even if stores close again, to prevent a backlog of returns during the shutdown, or a flood after reopening.

"In a time of retail uncertainty due to the coronavirus, it is incredibly valuable to add an essential services provider like FedEx Office to our growing network," David Sobie, Happy Returns CEO, said in a statement.

And, despite this year's global health emergency, Happy Returns has grown, adding more new customers in Q2 2020 than in all of 2019. Happy Returns has expanded its e-commerce returns services to new clients, including Dressbarn, Avenue and World Market.

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