This article is part of Raydiant’s new Future of Retail series which interviews the world’s leading retail experts to better understand how the industry has evolved and most importantly, where it’s headed.
The following is from an interview with Mike Newman, CEO of Returnity Innovations
** This interview was conducted prior to the Coronavirus outbreak**
What personally excites you the most about the retail industry?
MN: Big picture, our climate crisis is pushing the retail industry to comprehensively examine the impacts of how they make and sell their goods, how their customers use them – and how they ultimately dispose of them. What most excites me is that this examination is large because of a refined sense of corporate purpose and responsibility rather than government regulations. By rethinking what it is to be a successful retailer in our future climate, there is an opportunity to bring new models of product development, use, and end of life management to market that can create value for the companies and the planet.
Perhaps most exciting for us as a company are the programs that we are developing with major omnichannel retailers to integrate reusables into their core operations. Building the systems that allow regular e-commerce packaging to be reusable will have a huge, positive impact on the environment.
What has been the most dramatic change you’ve seen in the industry over the past 3-5 years?
MN: Circularity, and the rise of re-commerce, is transforming the lifetime relationship between company and customer. That evolution is forging entirely new business models, with Rent the Runway moving beyond the idea of apparel ownership, For Days integrating the reprocessing of used goods directly into their customer relationships, and thredUP bringing used apparel all the way to the showroom floor of traditional brick and mortar retailers.
The success of these brands to scale up these innovative new models has had a “halo effect”, creating markets for companies purpose-built to reinforce and support their work. Returnity is a prime example; whereas in the past the only packaging options were single-use cardboard boxes and poly mailer bags, these circular businesses are switching to reusables and have put us on track to displace 10 million shipments in disposable packaging by the end of 2020.
What are the top trends you see shaping brick and mortar retail in the next 3-5 years?
MN: We anticipate the integration of online and brick and mortar to continue to accelerate as companies find new ways of leveraging the strengths of those platforms. Happy Returns is lowering the cost (and environmental impact) of product returns by bridging the gap between digital-only brands and physical stores – and using Returnity shipping boxes in the process.
What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the retail industry in the next 3-5?
MN: Electric delivery vehicles. The trend lines all point in the same direction: not enough last-mile capacity, improving performance, lower costs, and a desperate need to address climate change as aggressively as possible. The age of the diesel-belching truck will reach an end sooner than people realize.
What’s the future of brick and mortar retail?
MN: We believe our relationships with some of the biggest retailers in the world will allow us to transform what shipping packaging can and should be over the next few years. So, time will tell what the future of reusables in retail looks like. In the meantime, we will continue our efforts to ease adoption of the circular economy.