Behind the e-commerce giants, is the incredible business of parcel returns

They were waiting for it! For many traders it has become ‘Black Friday’ The meeting of the year. This commercial wind from America carries consumers into a buying bulimia fueled by welcome promotions at this time of inflation. Even preparing for the holidays is a boon, since 70% of French people use Black Friday to anticipate their Christmas shopping, according to a survey by the Federation of E-Commerce and Distance Selling (Fevad). At Cdiscount, the French e-commerce leader, everyone is on deck. “We have 20 million visitors per month, but for this one day we expect 5 million. 20 million packages are sent every year, we deliver 200,000 the day after Black Friday”, says one of Cdiscount.

A major beneficiary of the Covid crisis, e-commerce has been digesting its billions accumulated over the past two years. And if the turnover of goods and textiles declines slightly in favor of digital services (36 billion euro cumulative revenue in the third quarter of 2022), the country still has 11,000 new e-commerce sites created in 2021. However, there are also a lot of “boxes” to return to warehouses because, according to Fevad, 25% of products purchased are returned to the sender. Alongside Mondial Relay and other Relais colis, Colissimo, La Poste’s subsidiary that will deliver 100 million packages top tense During the winter (1/5 of its annual volume), Jack Gregorcic’s teams saw 23 million packets on their way home last year. “In 2022, with our new home service, postmen will even collect 1 million parcels from French mailboxes”, admits the operations director of Colissimo.

About one in two parcels are sold on site

Defective products or unsatisfied customers, all return packages will not be placed on e-ray. At Cdiscount, the return rate is quite low (8% on average), but still represents 1.6 million packages to be reprocessed on the platform. “About 45% of returns are relisted on the site [NDLR : dont 5 % en occasion]We donate 20% to the association, and 35% are sold to discounters”, we explain at E-Merchant, where we constantly think about how to revalue these unsold items.

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It must be said that return management is a money pit. On a product sold on the Internet for 100 euros, the merchant will make a margin of between 20 and 30 euros. But the acquisition of a customer can cost him up to 10 euros (marketing, reduction…), and return transport 5 euros. If we add management and operating costs, the merchant site doesn’t have much left in its pocket. “To resell the product, you have to add costs. So we can say they operate at a loss of return”, believes an expert in the sector. This is why e-tailers are trying to recover the value of these stocks. They may go through bailiffs or auction houses to sell goods this way. But they are increasingly turning to “cyberdeskers,” companies that set up an auction system for pallets of parcels. the market Exclusively B to B. A market in France of approximately 5 billion euros.

Simon Vancopenol, founder of Stocklear, in a warehouse in Tournai, Belgium.

Simon Vancopenol, founder of Stocklear, in a warehouse in Tournai, Belgium.

Sebastien Pommier // L’Express

The world leader in this new sector is called B-Stock, which sold 143 million products in the US in 2021 and is coming to Europe. Disney, Unilever, Amazon… 9 customers of top 10 global retailers “We allow companies to convert inventory into cash in just two weeks fast fashion, There is a large amount of waste in this industry, such as practices such as burning unsold products. We offer a more sustainable option to give its inventories a second life,” explains Jessica Morris, European Marketing Director at B-Stock.

Amazon has created a bitter experience of destroying these products. NGO Friends of the Earth pinned the e-commerce giant’s practices in 2018 Around 300,000 new objects (Playmobil boxes, Legos, nappies, etc.) will be dumped at the warehouse in Chalons-sur-Saône in three months, according to a report broadcast in January 2019. capital, M6 News Magazine. But, starting January 1, 2022, the Anti-Waste and Circular Economy Act (known as Agec) forces producers, importers and distributors to reuse or recycle unsold non-food products. That’s why the calls to Simon Vancopenole, a thirty-year-old Belgian who set up his start-up in Roubaix, are even more frequent.

Stock for deskcars

Arriving at the foot of the old historic building of the mail order company La Redoute with its faded brick facade may confuse more than one visitor. Yet it is on this 13,000 square meter site that a new nugget of French technology has sprung up, quickly becoming an essential link in e-commerce. Stocklear you mean nothing? Naturally, this young company (15 employees) only works with companies. It mediates between online retailers and returned products from discount specialists, reselling products at bargain prices in small stores.

Pascal Federico, boss of the Eco Electro clearance store in Lomé, near Lille

Pascal Federico, boss of the Eco Electro clearance store in Lomé, near Lille

Sebastien Pommier // L’Express

“We store the goods in warehouses all over France, then we open the auction for two days. Once they are finished, we collect the money and send the funds to the seller. Along the way, we take a commission on the operation” , explains the founder of Stocklear, who Wants to be the European leader in the sector.

A few kilometers away, in Tournai, Belgium, Simon Vancopenol takes us to a warehouse where he has just a few hundred washing machines, fridges, televisions… an Ali Baba’s cave! “Do you see so many air conditioners? I didn’t think it would go so quickly. Everything is sold out regardless of the season,” the entrepreneur sighed. If he’s discerning about his suppliers, he’s happy to make concessions like Pascal Federico, boss of Eco Electro, based in Lomé in the Lille suburb. “These auctions are 20% of my supply. It allows us to reach major brand products at knockdown prices,” he explains. Damaged cardboard, small apparent defects, Daytkar, who bought on average 40% of the initial price, will resell at 20%. For him and his colleagues, it’s Black Friday throughout the year.


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