In September 2008, BUYSEASONS acquired Celebrate Express, a leading online and catalog retailer of family-friendly celebration products. It operates both Birthday Express, specializing in children's party products, and Costume Express, marketing costumes and accessories.
Additionally, BUYSEASONS operates a private label drop ship program providing costumes and party supplies for other Internet retailers.
As part of its acquisition integration, BUYSEASONS conducted an evaluation of its logistics and supply chain operations. Ultimately, the company transferred as much as 99 percent of its domestic package volume to UPS from a competitor. (UPS had previously handled only international deliveries and returns for BUYSEASONS, which represented about 5 percent of the company's overall business.)
The company was looking for a way to integrate returns authorization into its Web site. This would be particularly helpful from late August through October when the company's daily volume of 4,000 to 7,000 packages – fueled in large part by sales of Halloween costumes—increases ten-fold to 40,000 to 50,000 packages per day.
UPS recommended a solution that would provide BUYSEASONS' customers with easy online returns processing coupled with a new level of convenient drop-off locations. The solution, called UPS Returns® Flexible Access, allows customers to tender their packages at millions of UPS and U.S. Postal Service locations, including their personal mailboxes. UPS Returns Flexible Access gave BUYSEASONS the "self-developed customer returns program" the company had been planning to pursue on its own.
"It's been fabulous to have a really good business partner with such great products to offer," said Terry Rowinski, vice president of operations for BUYSEASONS. "(UPS) is able to execute on what they promise – and that's what counts."
BUYSEASONS integrated UPS Returns Flexible Access into its BuyCostumes.com Web site earlier this year. Customers can now initiate a return, print a label, request package pickup and track their return shipment all from their own computers. Consumers have the option of dropping off returns packages at any of the U.S. Postal Service's 127 million access points or via any of UPS's own 2 million access points. This level of convenience makes returning merchandise easier on the consumer, helping to alleviate first-time buyer anxiety and encourage repeat sales.
"It has made for a better overall customer experience, which is very good for us," Rowinski said.
In addition to providing consumers with a more convenient returns option, pairing UPS Returns Flexible Access with UPS Quantum View,sm a collection of online visibility services that enable features like custom tracking and notification, gives BUYSEASONS a firsthand look at what products are coming back to them, from which customers they're coming and when they will arrive. This allows returns to be planned into inventory which enables fewer markdowns and lost sales. This inbound visibility also gives the company added flexibility when scheduling employees to handle returns, ensuring that they have "the right people in place at the right time."
With very little effort to market the availability of this returns option, it has been well received by BUYSEASONS' customers.