Returns handling describes several processes in the return of goodsordered – mostly – online. They are processed and handled by the distribution centeraccording to the client’s specifications.

Looking at returns processing as a whole, the process begins with the intention of sending ordered and received goods back to the sender. The challenge here is the right of return. It enables the buyer/customer to return the goods even used to the retailer. This is one reason why fabric evaluation (see practical example) is standard for most suppliers.

Countless processes are necessary to guarantee a proper return of the goods. The handling spectrum of the individual distribution centers ranges from checking returns directly at goods receipt by means of scanning, sortingand further utilization to the creation of credit notes or the dispatch of replacement goods. Reimbursement of the purchase price is also common practice in e-commerce. However, it will only be released via a separate commercial system and completed by bank transfer after the aforementioned check.

Practical example of returns processing:

Each individual package is first unpacked and prepared for the goods assessment. Each individual article is then identified at a computer-aided workstation using the barcodeon the packaging and finally unpacked. The goods must be checked carefully and individually. Is the product still as good as new? Does it need to be cleaned or ironed? For example, if an item of clothing can be resold, it is packaged in the same way as it was previously packaged (ready for dispatch).
Due to the high volume of returns, department stores / warehouses have developed additional departments that handle returns only. They require additional space, which is often not available. In this case, so-called fulfillmentproviders, who handle returns processing in addition to general logistics, can help. With a shipping capacity of 150,000 items per day, the additional costs for returns amount to one million euros or more per month.

RMA Process

Due to the high volume of returns, companies today rely on the RMA process. It guarantees a structured and personalized return of goods. Before the goods arrive at the distribution center, they are already subjected to a quality check via remote diagnosis (questionnaire, e-mail communication).

You can find more on this topic in ‘The Cost Trap of Returns: 19 Euro per reverse transaction’ and under the Logistics KNOWHOW article ‘Returns’.


Image source: © Stefan Rajewski –

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