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After the holiday dust settles and tax time comes around, you might be eager to get things back to normal.

Of course, there’s always the one thing every real store or product warehouse doesn’t want to deal with – product returns. Odds are you got a lot of things returned over the last month or so as your holiday orders began to trickle back in, particularly if you do most of your business online, and all of those returns can begin to pile up after a while. If your warehouse or stockroom is still inundated with returned goods waiting to be put back in their proper place, or if you want to try to prevent this problem next year, here’s a few things to review to keep your returns under control:

Review How Much Is Left: We know the big December rush was a little over a month ago now, but un-handled returns can really start to pile up after a while if not attended to. If you still have products caught up in the holiday rush waiting to get put back where they belong, take some time to review exactly how much you’re still dealing with and what type of product it is, as that can have a big impact on how you proceed with putting it away and handling your returns going forward. Get all of your returned items together for an inventory check and go from there.

Provide Extra Space For These Items: Depending on how your warehouse or distribution center conducts its business, you might or might not be able to actually move these items or put them back where they belong. In the event that you need overflow storage for your returns, try to set aside (or get new) industrial storage like pallet racks or wire shelves to provide these overflow items with somewhere to go until you figure out what their final destination is. Speaking of which…

Figure Out Where These Products Are Going: As mentioned, many return products actually have to be counted as “overflow” inventory until they can be sent back to the distributor, manufacturer, or original retailer. Once the products have been sorted, try to contact your source for these items to determine what your next steps are: is the manufacturer expecting them back, are you able to mark them down and keep them for sale, or do they need to be shipped elsewhere?

Review Your Return Policy: Finally, to avoid this sort of congestion next year, you might want to take a look at your return policy or any applicable return policy of the retailers you serve. Was a certain item returned more frequently than others? Can your customers understand your return policy, or did you get a lot of questions? Take a look to see where you can be more proactive in your returns, and try to prevent these issues next year.

A smooth return policy and quick handling of the returned products can go a long way towards both streamlining your warehouse operations, and attracting and maintaining customer loyalty.

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