Creating a more efficient international returns solution on a reasonable budget

Dealing with international returns is by far the most stressful part of cross border retailing, and I’m sure most of you in the field will back me up on this. Large items i.e. rugs are particularly challenging, because the cost of returning them internationally ends up costing double or even triple the cost to ship the item to the customer, and as for returns from the States, this is a nightmare to say the least. I must be a glutton for punishment, but hey, there’s nothing like a good challenge to get you out of bed in the morning!

As sales are increasing, it’s simply impossible to continue to expand internationally without a more efficient returns process, so I looked into some of our options. US returns are posing the biggest problem for us, particularly because American customers have higher expectations, which if you look at the standard of customer service in the US you soon understand why.

Warehousing facilities were the route I was keen to go in but it seemed that everything that I looked into was either unsuitable or too expensive to be of benefit and time being tight, it felt like I was fighting a losing battle.

However, after returning from the World Retail Congress in Paris, the contacts I met from UKTI kindly gave me some information about 3PLs (Third Party Warehousing and Logistics facilities) suggesting that they may be a good fit for us and after contacting a few from the database, we found one in the US (The Warehouse USA) that may prove to be a cost effective solution for us and are now about to look for one in Europe.

3PLs give you a warehousing space to hold your stock in to be shipped from there, manage returns, or both. They allow you to bulk ship products over (saving money in the long run) and can be a cost effective solution for retailers who plan to increase their presence in a certain country but who don’t have the upfront capital to invest in their own premises.

With the help from UKTI, I was able to find a solution that is a lot cheaper than solutions that I had looked at in the past and it would have taken many more hours of desk research to come up with the information that they gave me. Also, knowing that the sources that you are provided with have been carefully selected by experts in the field and have been used by other companies in the past, gives you peace of mind that you have made the right choice.

So for any retailers out there who are doing research independently, it would definitely be worth your while to contact UKTI to see how they may be able to help you.

If anyone who is also starting out in international ecommerce has any questions for me or would like some advice, I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the answer but I’ll certainly do my best to help, or indeed if anyone has any advice that they would like to share with me, please feel free to get in touch by tweeting @OpentoExport with the hashtag #LornasBlog.

For those of you who would like to know more about The Rug House, please feel free to visit the website at

Sectors: Household Goods, Furniture & Furnishings, Textiles, Interior Textiles & Carpets, and Wholesale & Retail
Topics: E-commerce, Export Process, and Warehousing
Export Action Plan