Amazon tries to limit destruction of returned goods

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Amazon is to expand the possibilities its sales partners in some countries have to get rid of returns and unsold stock. This is how the e-commerce giant wants to meet the ongoing criticism of the large-scale destruction of returned goods.


Network of buyers

Amazon has a major problem with returned goods, which has once again made headlines: a report shows massive amounts of unsold returned products being destroyed. A few months later, the e-commerce giant responds and announces expanded options for sales partners to get rid of residual stock and returned products without having to destroy them.


The problem is as old as e-commerce itself: parcels that are returned, can no longer be sold as new. If the products belong to external sellers, they have to come and pick them up themselves, or the e-commerce player will get rid of them. A large part of Amazon's own returned products is either liquidated – bought in bulk for a bargain as leftovers – or donated to charities. What then still remains, is destroyed.


Amazon will now also offer this liquidation option to its platform partners: they are now allowed to use the company's wholesale channel and technology - meaning they can call the buyers that Amazon knows. The option is already available in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United States, and will launch in the United Kingdom this month.


Second life as second hand

There is also a third option: since the beginning of this year Amazon also offers products as second-hand. This usually concerns returned products that are resold as used. The returned products are inspected and labelled according to their condition - from 'as new' to 'acceptable'. The second-hand category is already active on the Dutch site for many product categories, but is now expanding further.


The service is already available to sales partners in the UK and will be available in the US by the end of the year. It will be the turn of Germany, France, Italy and Spain at the beginning of 2022. When an item is returned, sellers can choose to automatically put it back into circulation as pre-owned. Sellers may also determine the price themselves based on the condition.


“Customer returns are a fact of life for all retailers, and what to do with those products is an industry-wide challenge”, Amazon's Sustainability Director Libby Johnson McKee said. She hopes these opportunities, which Amazon groups as "recommerce", will contribute to a circular economy and reduce the impact on the planet. And, of course, it also generates additional revenue, including for Amazon: “We're excited that these programs will also help businesses selling on Amazon reduce costs and grow their business.”