Edition 119, May 2022

Closing the Loop Together

By Lauren Steil, Rahul Panicker, Andre Cisneros, Channel Control Merchants LLC

$761 Billion.

That is the scale of customer returns in 2021, up over 10% from 2020. Each year, a total of 33% of returns end up in a landfill. To put this in perspective, 2021 retail returns in the U.S. alone is estimated to generate 5.8 billion pounds of waste and 16.0 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent.1

To address the momentous problem of customer returns, the instability of supply chains brought on by COVID, and the sustainability challenges caused by this domino makes it incredibly challenging for any one party or service provider to solve. We must close this loop together by leveraging the strength of our diverse reverse logistics capabilities to build a strong foundation in the new world circular economy.

“Retailers must rethink returns as a key part of their business strategy. Retail is dealing with an influx of returned items. Now is the time to stop thinking of returns as a cost of doing business and begin to view them as a time to truly engage with your consumers.”2

Customer returns, overstock and supply chain issues continue to grow at an exponential rate as technology drives the necessity of convenience. At Channel Control Merchants, we view the benefits of partnerships by how we address the opportunity of returns by generating results that benefit our planet, our people and ultimately profit for our stakeholders. By extending reusability and extracting value from customer returns, we are able to divert products away from landfills and into the hands of real customers. Our stores primarily cater to undeserved communities by providing affordable merchandise through re-commerce, employment, development, and community engagement. Finally, by creating a unique and exciting shopping experience for our customers, we strive to maximize recovery for our retail partners. Endless opportunities are available to improve one’s position in this marketplace, specifically on the social elements of ESG where reverse logistic retailers have a distinct position to differentiate and orient the organization around values and purpose.

At Channel Control Merchants (CCM), we have striven to evolve our processes to better-serve the fundamental needs of our partners – Expediency, Transparency & Traceability of merchandise. In 2021, CCM diverted from the landfill: 3.0 million units of toys, 6.6 million units of food, 12.1 million units of home improvement products, 17.5 million pieces of clothing, and 20.2 million units of housewares, electronics, school supplies and other hardlines.

This was only possible with the various sourcing partnerships we built with retailers, digital liquidators, manufacturers & wholesalers; the majority of whom are part of this RLA community.
Building a partner-centric end-to-end value chain solution to tackle retail’s largest growing problem is the need of the hour. Success in our industry will be determined by the extent of transparency provided to create mutual trust and joint capability to close the loop together.

1 CNBC, Katie Schoolov, Where Returns Really End Up and What Amazon Is Doing About It (Jan 27. 2022), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66qOop6J8Q8

2 Steve Prebble, CEO of Appriss Retail. (Jan. 2022)


Lauren Steil, Rahul Panicker, Andre Cisneros
Meet Lauren Steil, Channel Control Merchant’s Business Development and Partner Care Manager. Lauren joined the CCM Team in 2021 but has grown up in the company as a fourth-generation consumer of CCM’s retail stores dating back to her early childhood. Lauren’s primary role includes engaging directly with retailers to repurpose and add incremental value to end-of-life inventory. A 2022 highlight for Lauren incudes attending her first RLA Conference in Vegas. It was encouraging to be a part of the bigger picture knowing that we are providing a solution by working together to close the loop. Rahul Panicker serves as the Vice President of Merchandising for Channel Control Merchants (CCM) overseeing efforts in business development and partner care. He brings with him over 11 years of experience in the Asset Liquidation, Off-price and Technology industries. Prior to CCM, Rahul worked for Hilco Merchant Resources as the Director of Merchandising, building, and managing operational processes for Hilco’s retail buying and wholesale liquidation businesses. Prior to Hilco, Rahul worked with Sears Holdings in several roles from inventory management to program management. Most recently he served as the chief of staff for the Sears off-price business unit. In this role, he worked closely with various merchandising and operations teams to integrate opportunistic procurement practices. Prior to moving to the US, Rahul worked with the technology teams at Dell and Microsoft corporations back in his hometown of Bangalore, India. Andrew Cisneros is the VP of Strategy at Channel Control Merchants, where he is primarily responsible for the company’s value-creation strategy, sustainability program, and other strategic objectives. Prior to CCM, Andrew was the head of product and group strategy for private capital markets at IHS Markit. Andrew’s previous roles include portfolio management at General Atlantic, a growth-equity firm, and deal advisory at PwC in New York.