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Thanks to a small team at our E-Commerce office in Amsterdam, BESTSELLER has turned the tide on online returns.

Heading into FY 2019/20, BESTSELLER faced a worrying trend. Our online return rate had been growing steadily for half a decade and was set to hit an all-time high.

To stop that from happening, the ‘Return Revolution’ was born. Ten E-Com colleagues from various departments came together to investigate returns and attempt to reduce their impact on BESTSELLER – all outside of their regular work.

“Returns have a big impact on our profitability and environmental footprint, so we were concerned about the upward trend. We started with a question that we hadn’t asked before: ‘how do we reduce the business and environmental cost of returns?’ We knew that if we were to be truly successful in responding to this question, we needed to look at returns from all angles,” explains Jordan Burke, who oversaw Return Revolution.

“We set out to ignite and inspire the E-Com business to brainstorm with us and brought together a project team with expertise from around the business. Through emails to our Return Revolution inbox, discussions at the coffee machine and whiteboarding sessions, we collectively came up with over 130 ideas in response to this question. The team worked on 100 of these ideas over the year and closed out the financial year successfully having curbed the upward trend in our return and achieving a significantly lower percentage than the previous year.”

How did they do it?

The goal was to complete 100 initiatives with 10 colleagues in the space of a year. These initiatives included data and financial analysis to changes on our brands’ websites and in the way we operate.

For example, new environmentally friendly cleaning equipment was installed at our Return Centre in Poland to remove small stains and odour, heavily reducing our need for external cleaning. These new cleaning options have a dual benefit – they restore products to pristine condition faster so stock can be sold again, and they make a positive environmental impact compared to alternative options by reducing water, paper and chemical usage. 

Dashboards and reports were also created for our brand E-Com teams to give easy access to return rate insights to help inform decisions. The rollout of an online return portal is also underway, which gives BESTSELLER more visibility on what products are being returned and why.

Another significant change instigated by Return Revolution was the decision to extend BESTSELLER’s online return window from 30 to 100 days. 

“It might seem counterintuitive but extending the return window has proven to be the right thing to do, both for the customers and the company. Customers can try on the items at home without feeling stressed to make a fast decision. As a result, customers are now keeping more items and returning less,” says Sofie Bertholdson, another member of Return Revolution.

The Revolution lives on

While the Return Revolution project came to a close at the end of June, the quest to reduce the impact of returns on BESTSELLER will continue through the creation of E-Commerce’s new Customer Team.

Both Jordan – as the new team’s leader – and Sofie will remain part of that effort. In particular, Sofie will be responsible for ongoing innovation in her role as Operational Excellence Specialist.

“We are continuing to roll out the online return portal, which will help us collect more data as to why customers return, which items they return and when. In the long term, this will help us understand our customers and how we can improve to further reduce returns,” Sofie says.

“We will also continue to look at the return behaviour of our customer base and target any shoppers with unusually high patterns of return activity. Another exciting initiative is our implementation of a process in the Fulfilment Centre where we add a tag to high value, high return items. The purpose is not only to lower the return rate for these items, but also to deter customers from wearing products out and about and then returning.”

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