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  • Writer's pictureJames Rigg

Black Friday must get greener and tackle its returns problem

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

With Black Friday and the Golden Quarter upon us, research shows that one in three purchases sold over the period are returned within the weeks that follow. This results in over 30 million unwanted gadgets being sent back to online and physical retailers.

Alongside cash flow problems and warehousing concerns, this also has a significant environmental impact. Tonnes of additional carbon dioxide emissions are produced during the returns process and many items are dumped straight into landfills, as it's not commercially viable to resell them.

This tradition cannot continue. Retailers need to take a more sustainable approach and minimise the amount of electronic waste produced over the period.

Encouraging greener spending

The first step in reducing the amount of waste is encouraging consumers to make more sustainable shopping decisions, whether that be in-store or online. Electronic retailers can educate customers on the benefits of only purchasing what they truly need rather than following a ‘fast consumption’ model. Black Friday presents an opportunity for people to purchase multiple items at a perceived lower cost with buy one get one free or three for two promotional offers more common. By encouraging smarter and more considered shopping, the number of unnecessary returns will be reduced.

In today’s world, there is an electronic solution for almost every task, however, it’s important that consumers consider the longevity of their purchases. Retailers can promote the importance of selecting high-quality, durable items that won’t need frequent replacements or disposal. This could mean highlighting the differing quality of items at different price points.

Re-selling high-quality products

Refurbishing and reselling is a sustainable and commercially beneficial option that retailers of all sizes can take advantage of. By engaging a repairs management professional, the lifespan of returned electronics can be increased. In the case of parts deemed unrepairable, they can often be recycled in their entirety.

However, there is a misconception amongst retailers that consumers don’t want repaired items or perceive them to be of a lower quality. Yet, according to Trojan Electronic's recent research, almost two-thirds (64%) of people say that they have bought a refurbished or repaired electrical item in the past. With more than a third (38%) doing so in the last 12 months.

Evidently, consumers are open to purchasing refurbished items, yet they remain largely unavailable in-store. Our research highlights that just 11% of refurbished or repaired goods sales currently happen in-store, with most retailers shying away from the opportunity. This is causing them to miss out on some welcomed benefits.

Not only does reselling items reduce the amount of waste being produced by retailers, but it also opens up the brand to a new group of consumers. We work with Melitta to repair its bean-to-cup coffee machines to a shop-floor standard. By repairing and reselling the machines at a slightly lower price, consumers who may not be able to afford a full-price item can enjoy a perfectly good machine.

Particularly this Black Friday as the cost-of-living crisis continues, cost-effective purchases are likely to be on the rise. Retailers can use the current economic landscape as an opportunity to provide some welcomed cost savings and reduce their environmental impact. But they must be confident in their decision. Retailers should be displaying like-new products alongside new items to increase the availability for customers and remove the perceived stigma. In fact, our research shows that offering refurbished products next to brand-new items has no detriment to the brand.

The future of Black Friday

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the current Black Friday model is unsustainable. Retailers have a responsibility to help consumers make more sustainable decisions over the period. This can be done by educating people on their options and introducing refurbished models to the shopping experience. With cost savings available to customers and environmental benefits for the retailer, taking steps to reduce the waste this year can start now.

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