Typology of practices for managing consumer returns in internet retailing

Klas Hjort*, Daniel Hellström, Stefan Karlsson, Pejvak Oghazi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore, describe and categorise practices of managing product returns empirically in internet retailing. Design/methodology/approach: A multiple case study was conducted involving 12 e-commerce firms and 4 logistics service providers. An integrative data collection approach of semi-structured interviews, documentation and observations was used to gain comprehensive managerial and operational descriptions of returns management (RM) processes.
Findings: The findings show inconsistent RM processes, with a plethora of practices implemented and organised differently across firms. RM processes are ambiguous; their design is a result of incremental changes over time, lacking strategy and goals. There is a mismatch between how they are described and understood in the literature and how they are actually used. Practices in gatekeeping, avoidance and reverse logistics are defined and categorised. These serve as a typology of practices for managers to (re)consider, along with 15 propositions on how RM is practised.
Research limitations/implications: The range of RM practices and the processes reflect a lack of scholarly attention and strategic view. Research is needed to develop clear goals on how the RM process can be better aligned with business strategies.
Practical implications: The typology of practices is a benchmark for internet retailers in their design of efficient RM processes.
Originality/value: Systematic and empirical research on RM is scarce compared to forward management. The study bridges this gap as one of the first to describe RM practices in depth, define service as a key activity, and identify a mismatch between theory and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)767-790
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • avoidance
  • case study
  • consumer returns
  • gatekeeping
  • Internet retailing
  • returns management
  • reverse logistics
  • service


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