UPS returns

Just in time for the “holiday gift returns season,” UPS said it formed a strategic alliance with inventory management technology firm Optoro “to enhance its retail reverse logistics services.”

UPS is also a recent investor in Optoro.

“The alliance will provide retailers and manufacturers with a one-stop solution to optimize the transportation and disposition of returns and excess inventory,” a spokesperson said. “This is especially important as retail returns volumes rise with the continued growth of global e-commerce.”

Separately, UPS said its National Returns Day is set for Jan. 5. The company expects holiday shoppers will use UPS to return more than 1.3 million packages to retailers, e-commerce sites and manufacturers. “More than 5.8 million packages will be returned to UPS during the first full week of January 2017,” the company added.

Alan Gershenhorn, UPS’ chief commercial officer, said the company is “here to help retailers and manufacturers simplify returns management and unlock the full value from their reverse logistics programs.” And he described the alliance as “an excellent complement to UPS’ existing portfolio of retail services that optimize the flow of goods, information and funds.”

Tobin Moore, cofounder and chief executive officer of Optoro, said, “Retailers are facing a growing number of challenges, with the rise of customer returns being one of the most prominent, totaling over $260 billion in value annually in the U.S.”

Regarding the deal with Optoro, UPS said its “joint reverse logistics solutions combine UPS’ operational and logistics expertise with Optoro’s software platform that maximizes recovery value and reduces environmental waste.” On that last note, UPS said a core goal of the alliance is to “minimize the impact that returns has on the environment.” Sustainable practices are a high priority for both companies.

In 2015, UPS was cited by Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens, and it is also on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. At Optoro, the company garnered a Circular Economy Award by the World Economic Forum this past year. The tech company also won the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Corporate Citizenship Award for Best Environmental Stewardship.

UPS said it recently invested in Optoro via its “Strategic Enterprise Fund.” The company said terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Investments made through the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund help the company better understand new technologies and develop new business models in the rapidly changing retail business environment,” UPS said.

Optoro, founded in 2010, describes itself as a technology company “that helps retailers and manufacturers manage, process and sell returned and excess inventory.”