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Out of everything a warehouse has to deal with during the holiday season, returns have to be one of the most…fraught with difficulties.

Returns may be the only thing that customers want handled faster than their initial delivery, since if, for whatever reason, the item didn’t work out, they’re going to want their money back so they can try something new. This is understandable, but it creates a lot of pressure on warehouses and retailers to be able to process their returns more quickly.

While there’s a lot of tips for handling returns in warehouses out there, one of the most commonly-encountered issues is simply a matter of space. Real estate firm CBRE predicts that $70.5 billion worth of holiday purchases are expected to be returned in 2020, and accordingly predicts that warehouses will need as much as 400 million square feet of additional warehousing space to handle it all.

400 million extra square feet sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it? Sadly, that’s probably not an option for you, but it could do you some good to take a look at your available space, and see how much capacity you may have to process returns.


Using Your Warehouse Space to Process Holiday Returns


When it comes to processing returns in your warehouse, there are generally two areas that need to be focused on: your returns process, and the area of your warehouse where the returns are handled. And, as times goes on, you may find that these two are more connected than you think.

The ideal warehouse will offer a dedicated space for handling returns. Priority should be given to making sure that any returned item is kept far away from the general inventory to avoid confusion, mispicks, and mistakes in processing.


To this end, you need to create a dedicated returns station. As returns are shipped back to the warehouse, make sure your team knows how to check them in properly, and then find an open space in the warehouse with a dedicated workstation with the appropriate warehouse shelving to store everything. Ideally, this area should be close enough to the shipping/receiving area to prevent long travel times, while not close enough that the inventories get commingled by accident.


That’s one of the biggest difficulties warehouses can face when taking in a large number of returns – giving everything their own dedicated space. If you’re not working with enough extra space to create a returns space, then do everything you can to make sure your team knows the difference between the active inventory and the returns that still need to be processed. In a lot of cases, this can be best handled by giving them their own clearly-labeled shelves (preferably with shelving label holders), with the appropriate training to help your team find which is which.

Training can go a long way with this, as well. By keeping well-detailed and thought-out processes on how to take in, process, and handle returns (particularly if the item is no longer in sellable condition), your team can cut down on losses and confusion during peak seasons, and keep your inventory accurate and usable.


Hopefully, with our tips, you can help your warehouse keep track of returns, even during what may be the busiest time in recent history for product returns. And if you need to buy wire shelving online to help better handle your returns, Shelving Inc. is here to help.

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