Happy Returns is expanding the reach of its returns services to a number of new markets with an agreement that will place the return management vendor’s Return Bars in all 276 Cost Plus World Market stores. Those Return Bars, which will be in place by the end of the month, will let shoppers return online orders from about 35 retailers including Rothy’s, Eloquii and Draper James.
The agreement, announced on Tuesday, builds on a pilot program that launched in April in which it placed Return Bars in 11 stores in Brooklyn, New York; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; and Lubbock, Texas.
The move is part of a concerted effort by Happy Returns to expand its physical presence. It is currently running a test with Cost Plus World Market’s parent company, Bed Bath & Beyond, in which it is operating Return Bars in 15 stores—five in Manhattan and 10 in Philadelphia. And next month the vendor plans to announce a further expansion of its Return Bars by testing its service in office buildings, including coworking spaces, and in colleges and universities.
“Our goal is to give consumers options,” says David Sobie, Happy Returns co-founder and CEO. “When shoppers are given the choice for how they want to return an item they bought online, they overwhelmingly choose to return that item in person because they often get their money back faster and don’t have to deal with the hassle of printing a label, packaging the item and shipping it back.”
The data backs up his claim. 26.1% of consumers in a recent Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights survey, featured in the 2019 “Click, Ship & Return Report,” reported being frustrated by their inability to return an online order to a store.
Happy Returns doesn’t pay retailers to place Return Bars in their stores. Instead, the stores benefit from increased foot traffic, which Happy Returns aims to quantify the value of by conducting customer surveys that include questions that examine whether they purchased any items in the store where they returned their online purchase. It also enables those retailers to add offers to consumers’ email receipts.
Happy Returns charges merchants a monthly service fee for handling returns, as well as a per-item fee that ranges from $3 to $5 per item, depending on the processing work that Happy Returns needs to do in its two processing hubs (one is located in Reading, Pennsylvania, the other is in Van Nuys, California). That work may include light refurbishment of the items, such as buffing the soles of shoes or rebuilding shoe boxes.
While Happy Returns operates its own kiosks and Return Bars in Paper Source stores, Cost Plus World Market and Bed Bath & Beyond’s large store formats enable the vendor to reduce the frequency of its returns pickups, Sobie says. “Space isn’t as much of a premium in those stores, which should reduce our costs,” he says.
By the end of the month, Happy Returns’ network will span more than 700 locations in 143 metro areas nationwide.
Bed Bath & Beyond is No. 68 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000.