Industry Insights From Renewal Logistics:

Sustainable options for return management

Did you know that on average 15% of online orders are returned?  That number increases to 26% for apparel. This means that returns are often a pain point for brands, especially in the apparel and footwear industries.

Whether they handle their fulfillment in house, or utilize a third party fulfillment partner, most distribution centers are not set up to manage returns well. Returns are considered an afterthought and an expense, and when a facility deals in the millions of units, spending the energy to work through a handful of returned items that trickle in at a time can be really frustrating. It is not uncommon for most companies to employ a strategy that is neither helpful or profitable – they simply ignore returns.

“Every year, people in the United States throw out more than 34 billion pounds of used textiles…Once textiles are discarded, 66% of them are sent to landfills in the U.S. where they decompose — some quickly and others over hundreds of years. 

Ignoring returns is no longer an option for fashion brands as consumers look more closely at the practices of brands and how their work affects the environment.

Managing Returns as a 3PL

You never know what you’re going to find when you open up a carton of returns from a big box retailer. As the single returns processing vendor for many of the largest apparel brands in the US, we’ve seen it all at Renewal Logistics. Returns come in from large retailers and wholesalers packed in whatever cardboard cases they had on hand, mixed together with blenders, books, perfume, household goods. One time we had a pallet that was supposed to be sport coats and ties, when we opened it we found fancy bidet toilet seats were mixed in the cases with the clothing! 

This creates some very difficult problems for the brands that are selling to these large retailers. Most retailers want credit back for what didn’t sell through if they are going to buy more products from you moving forward. And while the retailers pack and ship your returns back in whatever condition they please, one thing is for certain. They want their credits, and they want their credits fast.

The reason we’re the single choice for so many large brands is that we understand their position and we have thoughtfully built solutions to help them.

Return Inventory Visibility 

Often working with a 3PL can lead to visibility issues for brands. Most of the processes that are automated in your inhouse operations become very manual with outsourcing. This can slow down processing, and create major challenges with inventory accuracy.

Renewal Logistics understands this and has experience building ad hoc IT solutions to help make the outsourcing process automated, integrated and increase returned inventory visibility.

Example: One of the brands we work with came to us to provide solutions for their returns. Renewal Logistics started with a 200,000 unit project. This initial project had crippled their distribution center’s throughput simply because the volume of merchandise consumed so much space. They were estimating this project would take 2-3 months to go from sorting, to crediting, to refurbishing, retrimming, and finally repackaging for first quality sales again.

They awarded us with this project, and within 5 days crediting was complete and they were able to have full visibility on the units by size, style, color, and sku. This enables them to go back to the retailer and negotiate to shore up their credit numbers in near real time. This is critical for a brand. Imagine going back to Macy’s two months after you accepted their return shipment and then telling them their numbers were off? It just doesn’t work that way. If you can’t get a handle on the real numbers, you accept their numbers, and ultimately it can cost you a lot of money in credits that they don’t actually deserve.

Having the right 3PL partner to give you real time data on your returns is critical. For all of the brands for whom we handle their e-commerce fulfillment, returns are processed the next day and the crediting results are available in their portal almost immediately.

For clients who use us for 3PL services on an as needed basis, we can provide this crediting data within a very short turn around and in a format that is compatible with your WMS, OMS, or ERP.

Product Refurbishment

Renewal Logistics can handle the refurbishment process for you quickly and efficiently.

With one of the largest and most technologically advanced drycleaning facilities in the country, we are able to refurbish goods back to first quality. All products receive a complete rework with professional packaging and retrimming. In a matter of days, your stock is good as new, and on the shelves ready to be picked and packed. 

Damaged Returns

Our team can also help you manage any goods that are not in sellable condition, such as those that are damaged. Those items don’t have to be written off and disposed of in a landfill. We can provide a sustainable track for your damaged garments that may include upcycling and reselling, downcycling, or recycling.


Maybe you have women’s dresses that didn’t sell well, and you created too many samples. What was it that made that item not sell well? Was it the fit? The length? The overall style? Was the garment too plain? We can help you figure that out and fix the issue, and sometimes this means deconstructing the garment and creating something entirely new.

Upcycling is the process of taking an item and turning it into something new and different and better.

Renewal Logistics was able to make eyeglass holders and belts out of old mens’ ties.

The intent with upcycling is that you’ll be able to resell these items when they’re recreated.



With downcycling, this is the process of taking apparel such as blue jeans, and turning them into insulation, as we do with our partnership with Blue Jeans Go Green.

Another common use case for downcycling is taking old plastic and polyester and turning it into automotive upholstery.


Recycling is breaking items down into their original components – Cotton and Polyester are the two main materials that are conducive to recycling at this point. This process requires a lot of attention to detail, as garments must be of a particular fabric composition, color range, and must have buttons and zippers removed.

You don’t have to adopt a one-size-fits-all returns, reverse logistics, and product end-of-life process. We give you customizable solutions—for any scenario—that fit your company’s requirements and help your business grow. Contact Renewal Logistics today to learn how we can help manage your returns.

Looking For More?

If you ever want to chat with our existing clients, many of them we have NDAs with, so I can’t share their names on the website or in our newsletter, but I assure you, you’ve purchased product from them,  and if you want to verify our consistency, accuracy, and ability to handle complexity with ease, they’ll be happy to talk to you.

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