Posts tagged with "UPS"

The great giveback: Retailers team up with FedEx, UPS, Whole Foods to make returns easier

December 29, 2020

Retailers and logistics companies have struggled to get shoppers’ holiday gifts delivered on time. Now, they’re gearing up for what’s expected to be a brutal season for unwanted, returnable goods headed back in their direction, The Chicago Tribune reports.

Following a coronavirus pandemic-fueled surge in online sales, up to $70.5 billion worth of online holiday purchases are expected to be returned—up from $42 billion last year—according to a forecast from commercial real estate brokerage CBRE.

Many retailers that encouraged people to start their holiday shopping early also have extended their return deadlines this holiday season—and have tried to make it easier, once you get in the vicinity of the store, to get your money back. Still, the Tribune reports, returns aren’t as seamless as clicking “buy” online—and most merchants don’t offer contact-free options that enable consumers to stay in the car during the return transaction.

It’s not just because people are buying more gifts online. It’s because there are more people shopping online, including some who typically prefer to shop in person and aren’t accustomed to buying online,  Steve Osburn, managing director of Retail Strategy at Accenture, told the Chicago-based news outlet.

.Shoppers also admit that they’re now more likely to buy the same item in multiple sizes; then, keep the one that fits. About 62% of U.S. shoppers said they “bracketed” purchases, up from 48% last year, often because they gained or lost weight or were shopping at a new store and weren’t sure what size to pick, according to a September survey by Narvar, a company that helps retailers manage returns.

Retailers prefer shoppers return items in stores rather than ship them back because they can get items back on shelves more quickly, Osburn said.

But this year, the desire to avoid unnecessary trips to stores could push more people to seek mail-in options. About 30% of consumers surveyed by Narvar said it was easier to ship items back, up from 25% last year.

Walmart this week announced that FedEx will pick up returns at customers’ homes. Customers still need to pack items for shipment, which can be tougher when people are working from home without access to a printer to print the shipping label, but the service is free for items shipped and sold by Walmart.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced customers can return items at 500 Whole Foods Market stores without a box or shipping label. Amazon already had a returns partnership with Kohl’s. Amazon shoppers also can return items at UPS locations, in some cases without packing them up.

Returns service Happy Returns partnered with FedEx this fall to let shoppers return items from brands like Everlane, Rothy’s and Steve Madden at 2,000 FedEx locations with no box or shipping label.

Happy Returns previously had about 600 locations, which were mostly at malls and retailers like Paper Source and CostPlus World Market. The new FedEx locations adds convenience while making the service “COVID-proof” since FedEx is an essential business that will stay open, CEO David Sobie told the Tribune.

And, as return drop-off options have expanded, use has grown. Nearly 30% of shoppers surveyed by Narvar in September said they had taken their most recent return to a designated drop-off location like a pharmacy or another retailer’s store, up from 16% last year. About 35% of shoppers took their return to a carrier to mail back and 12% returned their item to the retailer’s store.

Some retailers are also trying to streamline traditional store returns.

Dick’s Sporting Goods will let customers return items through curbside pickup, as long as the purchase was made with a credit or debit card. Others say shoppers must come inside to make a return, though Narvar CEO Amit Sharma said he expects more retailers to announce curbside returns in January.

Research contact: @chicagotribune

Many happy returns: Retailers are ratcheting up the competition over fast, convenient delivery. Next up? Returns.

November 25, 2019

U.S. shoppers are starting to expect instant gratification. Buy something online and you’ll see it on your doorstep sooner rather than later. But when you want to return that item? Not so fast.

Now, The Chicago Tribune reports, a growing number of online retailers—from e-commerce giant Amazon to small apparel and footwear brands—are teaming up with brick-and-mortar chains to make returns less of a hassle; or at least no worse than the  transaction a customer would experience in a traditional store.

“If people can’t see it or touch it (when they first buy it), they want the option to return it,” Scott Rankin, principal at KPMG BrandVoice in the retail sector, told the Tribune. “Sometimes, they want to do it in a physical store because it’s just easier.”

The trend already is in evidence: Since early 2019, customers have been able to return many items bought on Amazon at any Kohl’s store. And delivery companies UPS and FedEx are partnering with chains like CVS and Walgreens to give shoppers more places to pick up and drop off packages.

Even some smaller online brands now offer in-store returns through Happy Returns, a California-based company that lets shoppers return items from more than 300 digital brands at more than 700 locations nationwide, mostly in malls and in cooperation with national chains like Paper Source and CostPlus World Market.

The Happy Returns service enables companies such as Revole, a women’s apparel brand, and Rothy’s , a footwear brand, to tout easy returns on their websites, The Chicago Tribune reports.

In-person returns with Happy Returns, Revolve’s website says, require “No receipt, return label or shipping box necessary! You just provide your email address or order number and your refund will be initiated immediately.”

In-person returns generally mean quicker refunds, which seems to be the biggest attraction for shoppers, Happy Returns co-founder and CEO David Sobie told the news outlet. But customers also like being able to skip the “arts and crafts project” of prepping items for shipment, he said. Happy Returns gives customers refunds on the spot— no box required.

For stores accepting other brands’ returns, it can be a way to get new customers in the door. Online retailers, meanwhile, know hassle-free returns can make customers more confident about clicking “buy.”

With the holidays fast approaching, in-store returns programs are about to undergo a major test, the Tribune says. U.S. consumers are expected to spend nearly $144 billion online this holiday season, up 14.1% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics.

And those same consumers will be sending millions of unwanted items right back.

In fact, UPS told the Tribune that it expects to handle a record-breaking number of returns this holiday season, with more than 1 million return packages expected to be shipped each day in December, peaking at an estimated 1.9 million packages on January 2.

As for the retail partnership, when they are fully rolled out, both UPS and FedEx said 90% of the U.S. population will live within five miles of a location where they can pick up or drop off a package.

Most of the packages people drop off are returns, and they generally choose the location that’s closest or has the most convenient hours, Scott Harkins, FedEx’s SVP of Customer Experience Marketing told the news out.

“Really, it just comes down to convenience,” Harkins said.

Research contact: lzumbach@chicagotribune.com

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a Wing ‘air carrier,’ now approved by the FAA

April 25, 2019

Logistics has gone upwardly mobile: The Federal Aviation Administration has certified Wing—a subsidiary of Alphabet, the parent company of Mountain View, California-based Google—to operate as an airline, in a first for U.S. drone delivery companies, Wing reported on Medium on April 23.

Wing, which began as a Google X project, has been testing its autonomous drones in southwest Virginia and elsewhere.Now, it plans on launching its package-delivery service within months out of a Blacksburg, Virginia, work site.

“This is an important step for the FAA and the drone industry in the United States; the result of years of work to safely integrate drones into the national airspace,” the company said. We’re grateful for the vision of the administration, the Department of Transportation, and the FAA for creating the Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (UAS IPP) to advance the drone industry in the United States.”

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy. Safety continues to be our Number One priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential,” said Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.

Company executives said they plan to expand to other parts of Virginia and around the nation, although the timeline for that remains unclear, The Washington Post reported. Uber, UPS and other companies also are working on securing related approvals from federal officials, who have been pushing to expand drone use—even as concerns about security and privacy remain.

Wing executives said they’ll ask residents and businesses in southwestern Virginia what they want delivered, as they have in Australia, where the company received permission to expand operations. Over-the-counter medicines and food are in the mix.

“In the short term, you look at what people do every day, especially people with really busy schedules or parents with young children who have a lot of demands on their time,” Wing CEO James Ryan Burgess told the Post. “Getting what you need late at night or “a healthy meal delivered, hot and fresh, in just a few minutes, can make a pretty transformative impact in quality of life,” he said.

As for how neighbors’ quality of life might be affected by buzzing next-door deliveries, the company said its drones “are quieter than a range of noises you would experience in a suburb, but they make a unique sound that people are unlikely to be familiar with.” Wing said it is working to develop “new, quieter and lower-pitched propellers.”

Wing also has emphasized the importance of community feedback and cooperation with local authorities, the DC-based news outlet said. Before launching Wing’s commercial service in Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech, and neighboring Christiansburg later this year, Burgess said, company executives are planning surveys and other outreach, including decidedly analog efforts such as “putting fliers in peoples’ mailboxes and even door-knocking and holding town hall meetings,” Burgess said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Cash on delivery: The selling of our mailboxes

December 13, 2018

The government is looking to “sell” Americans’ last bastion of privacy—our mailboxes—posthaste.

Specifically, in seeking ways to boost revenue for the U.S. Postal Service‘s money-losing operations–the Trump Administration is suggesting selling access to mailboxes, according to a December 11 report by CBS News.

“The legal mailbox monopoly remains highly valuable,” said a government report issued last week. “As a means of generating more income, the mailbox monopoly could be monetized.

While the report didn’t detail how much the USPS could earn from franchising mailboxes, it suggests that the USPS could charge third-party delivery services such as UPS or FedEx to gain access to consumer mailboxes, the network news outlet said. It’s currently illegal for other delivery services to drop packages or letters in a mailbox–a restriction that even applies to neighbors stuffing flyers for a local event.

The recommendation—a product of a task force created by President Donald Trump and chaired by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin—is just one of the ideas that the group made to tweak the USPS business model. According to the report, as of the end of FY 2018, the USPS balance sheet “reflects $89 billion in liabilities against $27 billion in assets—a net deficiency of $69 billion between FY 2007 and FY 2018.”

Other proposals from the group included cutting costs and boosting prices for “nonessential services,” including delivery of commercial mail, such as advertising flyers, CBS News reported.

“As [mail service providers] and package delivery companies continue to expand offerings to multiple parts of the value chain, it is reasonable to expect a willingness to pay for access to USPS mailboxes,” the report noted. “By franchising the mailbox, the USPS could expand its revenue and income opportunities without necessitating any change to its current mail products.”

But the economics might not be as rosy as the Trump administration report suggests, Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank that focuses on productivity and innovation issues, told CBS News.

“Nobody knows what the economics of that are,” Atkinson said in an interview with the network news operation. “Right now, say what you want about the Postal Service, but the part that is perhaps the most efficient is the last-mile delivery,” or the delivery from postal offices to consumers’ homes.

Instead, it could actually backfire and end up costing the USPS more money, Atkinson warned: “One of the reasons the USPS is not even more financially troubled is because they have this monopoly for delivery” to your mailbox, he explained.

If the USPS sells access to consumers’ mailboxes, even more businesses may opt for rival services such as FedEx or UPS. It’s not clear whether the franchise fees would offset the loss of that mail revenue, he added.

“I’m dubious that they could charge a price that could be any better than they already make, because then they’d be delivering fewer of those letters or packages,” Atkinson said.

While the report didn’t single out Amazon, the online retailer , President Trump repeatedly has blamed the company for some of the USPS’ financial woes. The president has claimed the USPS loses $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon.

There’s little evidence to back up his claims, however, as the package delivery remains one of the few lines of business that’s growing for the USPS, CBS reports.

Research contact: @aimeepicchi

Reputation poll: Apple needs polishing

March 14, 2018

The Apple and Google corporate brands have lost their elan—while Elon Musk’s Tesla is rocketing higher after launching a red Roadster into deep space and Amazon continues to ride high at number one in the Harris Poll Reputation Quotient for the third consecutive year.

Since 1999, the Reputation Quotient has quantified the reputation ratings for the 100 most visible U.S. companies, according to Harris.

Specifically, in a survey of about 26,000 U.S. adults, iPhone manufacturer Apple dropped to number 29 this year from its previous position at number five, and Google dropped from number eight to number 28. Apple had ranked at number two as recently as 2016.

John Gerzema, CEO of the Harris Poll, told Reuters in an interview that the likely reason Apple and Google plummeted was that they have not introduced as many attention-grabbing products as they did in past years, such as when Google rolled out Google Maps or Apple’s then-CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

“Google and Apple, at this moment, are sort of in valleys,” Gerzema said. “We’re not quite to self-driving cars yet. We’re not yet seeing all the things in artificial intelligence they’re going to do.”

Meanwhile, Gerzema attributed Amazon’s continued high ranking to its expanding footprint in consumers’ lives, into areas such as groceries via its Whole Foods acquisition.

Elon Musk’s Tesla climbed from number nine to number three on the strength of sending its Roadster into space aboard a SpaceX booster—despite fleeting success delivering cars on time on Earth, Gerzema told Reuters.

He’s a modern-day carnival barker—it’s incredible,” Gerzema said of Musk. He noted that the Tesla CEO “is able to capture the public’s imagination when every news headline is incredibly negative. They’re filling a void of optimism.”

This year’s top ten rankings go as follows: Amazon, Wegman’s Food Markets, Tesla Motors, Chick-fil-A, Walt Disney, HEB Grocery, United Parcel Service, Publix Super Markets, Patagonia, and Aldi.

Last place went to Japanese auto parts supplier Takata, which distributed air bags that inflated with too much force—allegedly causing 22 deaths and hundreds of injuries, and prompting the largest recall in automotive history.

Research contact: @StephenNellis