gary lynch

Black Friday has quickly become the busiest shopping day of the year as retailers deal with a huge spike in demand. Over £1bn is expected to be spent this year, and while it’s common knowledge that fulfilment is a key driver of spend - with speed, cost and flexibility in delivery top priorities - it’s vital that a convenient delivery service be supported by an equally high standard returns process.

According to retail intelligence company Clear Returns, UK retailers stand to lose £130m just from handling returns of items bought on Black Friday.

In the past, returning goods was a simple concept. However, the exponential growth in omnichannel retailing that allows consumers to use multiple fulfilment options to suit their needs, such as click & collect, delivery to home and delivery to a collection point, has made the returns process very complex.

Consumers continue to have high expectations of retailers and 78% cite an efficient returns system as one of the reasons for shopping with a particular retailer. So how can retailers ensure a seamless returns experience?

The solution lies in improving supply chain efficiency through the implementation of unique global standards. By producing a single real-time view of inventory levels across sales channels, retailers can accurately identify returning goods so credits and replacements can be swiftly dealt with, and returned products can be turned to stock quickly.

We help our members provide their customers with the necessary flexibility when it comes to obtaining and returning online purchases, while removing cost from the process. GS1 standards add value by helping make the desire for a single view of stock a reality. Real-time product visibility and availability, with accurate information across all digital and physical channels, is essential.

John Lewis, a member of GS1 UK and champion of Black Friday 2014, has made significant investments in its supply chain and implemented GS1 standards throughout its stores.

Black Friday will again prove a critical test of the industry’s readiness to deal with a massive spike in orders; having a high standard returns process has never been more important.

Gary Lynch is CEO at GS1 UK