The deal with Ulta Beauty increases the total number of Happy Returns Return Bar locations to more than 5,000. That means the rapid-returns service is now available within a 10-mile radius of 78% of U.S. consumers.

Shoppers will soon be able to return goods to dozens of retailers by dropping items at more than 1,300 locations run by Ulta Beauty Inc.

Ulta, No. 45 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, is the latest retailer to sign a deal with Happy Returns, a vendor that handles return services for online retailers by setting up return kiosks, called Return Bars, which consumers can use to send back purchases from participating online retailers without needing to box or label the item.

Some retailers with no stores, or only a handful, offer the convenience of returns to physical locations by working with Happy Returns. Among them are the online shoe brand Rothy’s and Draper James, a women’s apparel brand founded by actress Reese Witherspoon.

PayPal Holdings Inc. purchased Happy Returns in May 2021.

The deal with Ulta increases the total number of Happy Returns Return Bar locations to more than 5,000, according to a March 29 written statement from PayPal. FedEx, Paper Source (No. 1474 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000) and Cost Plus World Market stores also house the Return Bar kiosks.

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In addition, PayPal said merchants offering PayPal Checkout can use the Happy Returns return and exchange portal software at no extra cost.

“By offering the Happy Returns software free of charge, we are delivering a post-purchase solution for merchants that helps them retain revenue and gives them a competitive edge in today’s market,” David Sobie, vice president of Happy Returns by PayPal, said in a written statement.

According to a post-holiday survey by Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights, 1% of 1,033 online shoppers planned to make a return using Happy Returns or a comparable third-party service.

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Ulta pilot test

PayPal piloted the Happy Returns-Ulta partnership in late 2021.

A spokesperson for PayPal declined to tell Digital Commerce 360 which Ulta locations were involved in the pilot test. However, Digital Commerce 360 tested the Happy Returns’ process at an Ulta in Chicago in late December.

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PayPal isn’t the only payment company to move into the returns business. In April 2021, a few weeks before PayPal bought Happy Returns for an undisclosed amount, buy-now, pay-later vendor Affirm Holdings bought Returnly in a $300 million transaction.

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