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  • Writer's pictureMikahila Bloomfield

Startup of the Month: Greenlist, Peer-to-Peer eCommerce Returns

Saving clothes from landfills and incineration.

Sustainable retail returns shipping packaging

Its a feeling many have experienced while shopping online — you spot the perfect addition to your wardrobe, go to add it to your cart, then you're taken from the height of retail joy to the pit of internet despair as you're notified that your perfect piece is no longer in stock. This exact experience is what inspired Greenlist founder Jess Owens to create an eCommerce startup focused on peer-to-peer returns. While shopping online, a jacket Jess was hoping to buy was out of stock, but she knew there had to be someone out there with one of these jackets and they wanted to return it for whatever reason — it didn’t fit, didn’t arrive in time, you know, the typical preference-based reasons people return things they buy online.

Furthermore, according to a report from Eco-Age, 'bracketing' — the act of buying products with the intention of returning them — accounts for 30-40% of all online clothing purchases. Yet, the hassle of dealing with returns leaves customers and retailers scrambling — and this scramble is exacerbated by the environmental impact of returns. “In 2021, shoppers returned an estimated $761 billion in products, resulting in over 6 billion pounds of waste. This problem is humongous; we hope that each additional step we can take to reduce it will make an impact”, explained Greenlist co-founder Ashley White. Plus, oftentimes, returns don't even end up back on the retailer's shelves. "Shoppers aren’t always aware that returns end up in landfills, incinerated, or sold to liquidators."

Fashion League spoke with Greenlist to better understand how Jess, Ashley, and Zack Whitacre, Head of Operations, plan to disrupt the retail industry by reimagining the retail returns experience.

Startup: Greenlist

Location: Falls Church, Virginia

Founded: 2019

Special Sauce: Software plug-in that integrates into existing eCommerce websites, simplifying returns management & logistics

Raised: $550,000

Investors: seed-stage, angel investors, friends & family

Diagram of Greenlist ecommerce returns process

FASHION LEAGUE: What are the advantages of peer-to-peer returns compared to the traditional returns process?

GREENLIST: Our model is a win-win-win for everyone involved. Shoppers get a discount on items they want, retailers save money on logistics costs by making the resale of a return more efficient, and the whole process is more sustainable, through lower carbon emissions and packaging usage, than conventional returns and resale.

FASHION LEAGUE: Was it difficult to get eCommerce partners on board?

GREENLIST: Yes, we are disrupting returns, which is scary to some retailers. The most novel part of our model is that the retailer doesn’t have an opportunity to inspect each return before it’s shipped to another customer. Given the proportion of returns that are in like-new condition – in the apparel industry, this can be well over 95% for some retailers – we feel confident that the majority of shoppers purchasing items through Greenlist will be satisfied with their purchase.

FASHION LEAGUE: Does Greenlist have any big projects in the works?

GREENLIST: Yes! We are launching our customer portal and automated Shopify app in May.

FASHION LEAGUE: What values do you think are important when launching a new business?

GREENLIST: Remembering your mission but being able to pivot. Our core values are creativity, authenticity, making an impact, compassion, and growth. We aim to embody them every day!

FASHION LEAGUE: Could you share some advice for our readers who may be looking to launch their big idea?

GREENLIST: Be ready to be in it for the long haul, talk to a lot of people who have done this before and a lot of people in the industry. Every day, you’ll think of a new question or detail. Push through the uncertainty to achieve your vision!

greenlist ecommerce software plugin website

What do you think of Greenlist's eCommerce returns solution? Leave a comment below. Follow Fashion League on Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter for Faux or Fashion™ trivia, and the latest job postings from some of your favorite companies.

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