Consumer Behavior

Executives Show Pet Appreciation, Category Continues to Surge

Executives Show Pet Appreciation, Category Continues to Surge

Early in the pandemic, an increased interest in the pet category emerged. For many who began working from home, it was the ideal time to adopt a kitten or puppy, while for others it sparked a closer connection with the pets they already had at home.As pet parents spent more time with their furry loved ones, shopping in the pet category continued to rise as people purchased products that met daily needs they were now seeing firsthand, or simply sought to show some extra love. Pet supplies and accessories even landed as a budgeted section of consumers’ holiday shopping plans.
To meet the needs of the evolving category, direct-to-consumer brands have popped up and offer products that are both aesthetically pleasing and of higher quality.

At the same time, designers including Prada, Thom Browne and Versace, among many others, have taken note and now offer a new level of quality and style to the pet market as well. As previously reported by WWD, the global market for pet products, excluding food, is projected to hit $36.89 billion by 2025.

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In light of Pet Appreciation Day, WWD asked founders and executives — both working inside and outside of the pet category — what their pet means to them, from being a loyal friend during the start of a company to a business trip companion.
Daniella Pierson, founder and chief executive officer of The Newsette

Daniella Pierson, founder and chief executive officer of The Newsette.
Courtesy Image.

“My pet poodle Leo (and my new puppy poodle Truffle) mean the world to me as they have provided me such emotional support and happiness during very stressful times in my business. Leo, who is 5, sits next to me every single day while I take every call and meeting, and all I need to do is look at him if I’m having a bad day or am incredibly anxious about something. He is the ultimate cure.
“A lot of people may think that getting a new puppy right in the middle of launching my new company, Wondermind with Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey, is irresponsible or bad timing, however, I disagree. I am pouring every hour of my life into both Wondermind and The Newsette, and I believe that being able to have a little extra pure happiness is what will keep me going, even when things are tough.”
Marisa Grimshaw, senior vice president of communications and brand partnerships at Rhone

Marisa Grimshaw, senior vice president of communications and brand partnerships at Rhone.
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“Lilybug means the world to me! She’s been my constant companion for almost nine years, in addition to being an exercise buddy, an adventure partner and so much more. I refer to her as my ‘soul dog’ because we have such a unique bond.”
Brytanie Killebrew, director of brand marketing at Wild One

Brytanie Killebrew, director of brand marketing at Wild One.
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“I’ve always been a huge dog lover, so the dog-shaped hole in my heart was pretty big before adopting Roo. At 46 pounds, my sweet scruffy girl was rescued from a kill shelter in the South at only four months old. To me, there’s nothing better than the love of a rescue dog, and Roo is more than I could have ever imagined. I mean, look at that face!”
Lauren Steinberg, founder and global brand marketing director at Queen V

Lauren Steinberg, founder and global brand marketing director at Queen V.
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“When I think about what my doodle, Rigatoni, means to me I think of unconditional love. He makes me smile when I need it the most.”
Olowo-n’djo Tchala, founder and CEO of Alaffia

Olowo-n’djo Tchala, founder and chief executive officer of Alaffia.
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“In 2015, I adopted Akupa, an off-the-track thoroughbred. She’s a gentle soul, who centers and relaxes me, as well as brings me great joy to see her happy and thriving.”
Tarn Morrison, director of public relations and Partnerships at Tula Skincare

Tarn Morrison, director of public relations and Partnerships at Tula Skincare and Van Morrison, French Bulldog.
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“Rescuing Van has brought the sweetest joy into my life, I’ve lived in NYC for years but having Van by my side makes me feel more at home than ever. He just celebrated his first birthday and I’m the proudest mom in the world!”
Brenda Brock, founder of Farmaesthetics

Brenda Brock, founder of Farmaesthetics.
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“My rescue, Willa Jean, is the sweetest, most joyful hound dog a girl could ever ask for. She was rescued from the life of an injured, hungry, junkyard dog, and had to endure multiple hip surgeries for the first year that I had her. She powered through all of it with fortitude and brought such a positive attitude to her recovery. She is my vibrant loyal companion and has truly taught me the restorative power of love and patience.”
Shelley Reinstein, founder and CEO of Autumn Communications

Shelley Reinstein, founder and chief executive officer of Autumn Communications.
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“I didn’t realize I was a dog person until Phoebe came into my life 13 years ago. She has actually become part of me — a limb on my body! We are inseparable, my companion for life. Last year, I fostered Frank — a dog that was found in a garbage in Mexico with a hole through his nose — with the help of the Autumn office, we all nursed him back to health. They are everything that makes me happy in this world. I say no to most plans at night to be with them and my husband. They make my day better every day.”
Wendy Wen, founder of Antelope and CEO of Bocce’s Bakery

Wendy Wen, founder of Antelope and chief executive officer at Bocce’s Bakery.
Courtesy Image.

“My three pups, Poke, Mochi and Hoku, are everything to me and my inspiration for starting Antelope, a pet wellness platform focused on delivering high-quality, natural pet products and services. I’m always looking for ways to elongate their lives, improve their health, and elevate their quality of life. I adopted my first pup, Poke, right around the time I was creating my first business, and he really got me through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. My favorite thing to do with them is take them on long walks in the afternoon after a day at work (and feed them lots of treats!). They’re my rock and I couldn’t picture life without them.”

Parisa Fowles-Pazdro, Founder and CEO of Maxbone

Parisa Fowles-Pazdro, Founder and chief executive officer of Maxbone.
John Schell

“Macintosh is one of the most important things in my life. If not the most important. In addition to providing an emotional connection and unconditional love, we learn a lot about compassion from Mac. He is always there to love us regardless of what happens. My main motivation for founding Maxbone is to give him only the best he deserves!”
Dan Schaefer, cofounder and CEO of Native Pet

Dan Schaefer, cofounder and chief executive officer of Native Pet.
ANYA GRUNEWALD

“I literally quit my job for my dog, Louie. He has been my inspiration and symbol of strength as I chase my entrepreneurial dreams. He came to my family malnourished and our journey nursing him back to health inspired the vision for Native Pet. He needed supplemental nutrition that kibble didn’t provide, and there were no natural and effective products available. I quit my job to make products he would love. Without supplements Louie wouldn’t be as strong as he is today and his strength is my perpetual inspiration.”
Sabeena Ladha, founder and CEO of Deux

Sabeena Ladha, founder and chief executive officer of Deux.
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“It’s like that TikTok sound — “No I don’t think you understand, I’m obsessed.” Pablo isn’t really a pet to me. He’s my best friend, my boyfriend, my husband, my child, my sibling, my soulmate, all wrapped up into a little chunky, fit body. If the house was burning, I would save Pablo first and my husband Kabir would be second, and honestly we’re all okay with that. He spreads this infectious joy and people are drawn to him in a way I haven’t witnessed with other humans or pets. He is magnetic.”
Jenna Owens, founder of Fitish

Jenna Owens, founder of Fitish.
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“Dogs, especially pugs, bring a much-needed sense of humor to my day. No matter what has transpired, they love you unconditionally and always find a way to make you laugh.”
Lee Applbaum, chief marketing officer at Wheels Up

Zuri Applbaum, 16 month old Bernedoodle and frequent flier.
Courtesy Image.

“Pets are so incredibly rewarding, and like everything great in life, you get out what you put in. Zuri, at 16 months, is still a lot of work, but her love is boundless, and her presence, including flying with us on our Wheels Up fleet, simply makes every moment more joyous and memorable.”
Carolyn Chen, founder of Dandylion 

Carolyn Chen, founder of Dandylion.
Courtesy Image.

“Mocha, my 11 year old cockapoo, is truly my soul dog and means the world to me! She has taught me how to appreciate the little moments in life, constantly reminds me to spend time with loved ones and pushes me to be the best version of myself. She is my inspiration for starting Dandylion, and creating gentle dog wash essentials for dogs with sensitive skin everywhere, including herself.”

Study Shows Small Businesses are More Optimistic Than Ever Entering 2022

Study Shows Small Businesses are More Optimistic Than Ever Entering 2022

According to the 2022 SMB Outlook from the Visa Global Back to Business Study, 90 percent of small business owners are optimistic about the future of their businesses — the highest levels of optimism found in Visa’s studies to date.Visa’s study surveyed 2,250 small business owners (with 1,000 or fewer employees) and 1,500 consumers across nine markets — including Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and the U.S. — in December 2021. The report marks the sixth consecutive edition of Visa’s Global Back to Business study.
Along with a surge in optimism a standout change was seen in this year’s study, Jeni Mundy, global head of sales and acquiring at Visa, told WWD was increased use of digital payment methods. In fact, 82 percent of SMBs surveyed said they will accept digital options in 2022 and 46 percent of consumers surveyed expect to use digital options more often in 2022.

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“These high levels of optimism go hand-in-hand with how much better equipped small businesses have become,” said Mundy. “The digital capabilities that so many small businesses built up during the pandemic — from contactless payments to e-commerce — helped them pivot and survive. [In our study] four-in-five (80 percent) small businesses agreed that, with the right tools in place, their business can compete against any competitor. That level of response reflects both confidence and optimism — a welcome outcome after managing through two years of uncertainty.”
Getting online has been crucial for small businesses during the pandemic and for 90 percent of those surveyed increased efforts to sell via e-commerce was the reason they said they survived during this time. On average, the businesses reported that more than half of their overall revenue came from online sales in the last three months.
Notably, this came in tandem with rising consumer demand for more digital payment options. In the consumer portion of its survey, Visa found 41 percent of global consumers have abandoned a purchase in a physical store because digital payments were not accepted. This percentage rises to 59 percent for Gen Z and to 55 percent for Millennials. A third of global consumers also said they would not shop at a store that only offers payment methods that require contact with a cashier or a shared device.
“The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital payments and redefined the boundaries between online and in-store experiences,” said Mundy. “More than ever, people are engaging across multiple channels — shopping online, in-store, and through mobile apps. We’ve seen that SMBs who have embraced digital commerce and made changes to the way they operate not only have weathered the pandemic better but are also setting themselves up to thrive in the future.”
At the same time, almost 90 percent of consumers also said they see benefits to a digital-first payments society, reporting it would be easier for online shopping, less risk of robbery, health reasons and more security.
“I think the most important thing for small business owners to consider is that if they do not invest in digital payments, they risk turning away potential customers,” said Mundy. “The pandemic has accelerated a shift toward digital commerce that was already well underway in most parts of the world and accepting new forms of payments can be a fundamental part of their business’ growth strategy.”

Moreover, Mundy said, while in the past small and micro-businesses worldwide have struggled with traditional payment acceptance there are now solutions to enable.
“We’ve introduced a number of innovations to help reduce this burden,” said Mundy. “For example, Visa Tap to Phone makes it easier for sellers to use the smartphones they already own to accept contactless payments — simply by downloading an app. Customers win, too, as they can make safe, contactless payments with just a tap of their contactless card, phone, or watch to the seller’s NFC-enabled smartphone. Solutions such as this one open up the notion of accepting payments anywhere — even at curbside — for even the smallest businesses.”
As more businesses look for ways to grow amidst continued uncertainty and ongoing disruptions, Mundy told WWD it has been interesting to see how accessible international markets are becoming to small businesses thanks to the digital adoption and evolving technology. Selling online will help these businesses grow through the opportunity to bring products and services to customers around the globe. In Visa’s research, 50 percent of small businesses said they plan to increase cross-border sales in 2022.
“Helping to open that kind of opportunity is one of the reasons Visa remains committed to supporting small businesses, globally,” said Mundy. “While 2020 and 2021 were about embracing cashless and getting businesses online, 2022 will be about building on that foundation and prioritizing the customer experience. Payments aren’t just about completing a sale, after all. The checkout experience is a reflection of your brand. It’s also the last opportunity for small business owners to make a great impression on customers as they walk out the door.”
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Credit Karma Survey Finds a Growing Number of Consumers Have Worsening Finances

Credit Karma Survey Finds a Growing Number of Consumers Have Worsening Finances

Despite reports of many Americans improving their financial situations over the last two years, entering the third year of pandemic, new survey data shows that Americans are dipping into their savings more than ever to cover necessities.In fact, the new study conducted by Qualtrics on behalf of Credit Karma found that more than half (53 percent) of U.S. respondents have had worsening finances since the pandemic began, with 38 percent of people saying the amount of money they have in savings has decreased.
These findings were especially true among Millennials and those with household incomes below $50,000. And while concern for financial situations worsening was most apparent among Millennials (64 percent) the sentiment was consistent across all cohorts including 48 percent of Gen Z, 54 percent of Gen X and 45 percent of Boomers and above.

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Notably, of those respondents who said it was necessary to use money from savings at some point in 2021, 60 percent said they did so to pay bills and 59 percent said they did so to pay for other necessities.
At the same time, 12 percent of respondents reported they do not have any money in savings and those with household incomes under $50,000 were at most risk rising to 20 percent of respondents saying they do not have savings.
“We’re getting some mixed signals when it comes to the state of consumers’ finances as we enter the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic,“ said Colleen McCreary, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “However, if this study is any indication, many consumers’ finances have taken a hit over the last two years and, in particular, their savings. This is a problem when you consider nearly half of all Americans don’t have $400 saved to cover an unexpected emergency.”
So how did Americans get here? In part, Credit Karma’s study indicates that as vaccines rolled out to a broad population, there was a sense of normalcy setting in which lead to many consumers spending more on dining out, travel and shopping. Combined with rising inflation the amount consumers were spending increased throughout the year.
According to the company’s survey, almost 60 percent of respondents said they spent more money in 2021 than they did in 2020 with almost half indicating feelings of regret about spending choices.
“As we enter a new year, amid an uncertain economic backdrop, rising inflation and perhaps the largest exodus from the jobs market in recent history, it’s important for consumers to consider their finances before they take action,” McCreary said. “That’s especially true for those looking to leave their jobs or make a major purchase, like buying a car or home. At the end of the day, cash is king.”
But will the new year bring new spending habits? According to those respondents who said they spent more money in 2021, 44 percent said they will plan to spend less in 2022. The most likely to pull back spending was found to be Gen Z at 53 percent, compared to 45 percent of Boomers, 42 percent of Gen X and 41 percent of Millennials.
Still, more than a fourth of respondents said they expect to spend more money in 2022, citing overspending on necessities like rent, food and other living expenses. Vacations, dining out and travel to visit family also ranked among the top reasons that consumers would “splurge” in 2022.

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ESW Global Voices Survey Reveals Consumer Sentiment Toward Returns

ESW Global Voices Survey Reveals Consumer Sentiment Toward Returns

Amid post-holiday consumers — who largely shopped online during the holiday season — are returning unwanted items at a skyrocketing rate.However, according to the Global Voices: Cross-Border Shopper Insights report, a new survey conducted by the global direct-to-consumer e-commerce company, ESW, younger consumers are largely choosing to keep unwanted items. In fact, 56 percent of Gen Z and Millennial consumers will hold on to products.
Notably, ESW’s data found that Gen Z and Millennials combined comprise 60 percent of cross-border shoppers. And more than 30 percent of Gen Z and 37 percent of Millennial shoppers have made more than 11 cross-border purchases in the past year alone.

When asked why they would not be making returns, Gen Z and Millennials indicated top reasons are because they believe returns to be inconvenient, expensive and bad for the environment. Other reasons cited for not returning items included unclear return policies, no local collection points and insignificant item cost.

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Moreover, more than half of both Gen Z and Millennials also admitted that they had made a purchase from an internationally based retailer that left them with some confusion about how to return. The markets where overall consumers were most likely to forgo returns were China with 67 percent avoidance from all consumers, India at 64 percent and UAE at 64 percent.
“Eliminating the friction Gen Z and Millennials associate with returns will be a big win for all direct-to-consumer brands, as these young adults will continue to drive the growth in e-commerce in all markets,” said Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, ESW’s president and CEO, Americas. “Taking away the ‘work’ associated with returns will help attract more Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.”
Free returns, scheduled pick-ups and easy-to-access collection points, he said, will help mitigate burdensome returns requirements. ESW aims to take the pain points away when it comes to international returns by offering consumers a more seamless return experience that offers a full refund within 24 hours of the return being received. The company’s solution offers support for several return options including pre-paid, drop-anywhere or pick-up returns.
“Brands that transparently communicate their sustainable shipping options for both deliveries and returns will likely create a more loyal customer base across all generations,” Bousquet-Chavanne said.
ESW has return centers on six continents and 68 returns shipping centers.
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Afterpay Breaks Down Latest Trends in Consumer Behavior Report

Afterpay Breaks Down Latest Trends in Consumer Behavior Report

Reporting more than 17 million consumers joining Afterpay, since its inception, the company is processing over $1 billion in sales per month — making the North American market the largest contributor to its underlying sales.
According to the company’s latest biannual fashion and beauty trend report, Americans and Canadians represent more than 8.1 million of Afterpay’s growing consumer base. Consumers in Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston are doing the most shopping. Notably, since the company’s last report Afterpay’s North American consumers have changed a preference from shopping later in the day to shopping during pre-work hours.
The North American consumer segment is shopping for beauty with an average of four beauty items in checkouts — consistent with last season — and an average checkout of four items when shopping ready-to-wear as consumer trends transition to a preference for monochrome tones, including items such as bodysuits and rompers. Moreover, according to Afterpay’s report, casual fashion is still present, sweatpants, athleisure and nightwear continue to top shopping carts, however, Afterpay shoppers are also beginning to purchase workwear including pumps, work trousers and bodysuits. Authors of the report noted this data may suggest consumers’ looking toward the end of lockdown as vaccinations continue to roll out with travel becoming more accessible and buyers purchasing more duffel bags, swimsuits and sunglasses.

The top three prints for North American shoppers this season were found to be pique, chambray and monogramed or logo with the top three hues found to be chocolate, metallics and plum.
In beauty, the report reveals skin care remains a top priority from shoppers with face rollers, and oils seeing increasing purchases as consumer behavior continues to favor at home treatments. CC cream, sunscreen and nail polish were also bought frequently. Afterpay’s consumer psychologist, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, said these products are likely to remain top of mind as consumers continue to prioritize fresh skin and hold off on returning to a full makeup routine.

Afterpay campaign billboard. 
Courtesy Image.

To better understand the findings of the report and the role of fashion in culture and society, Afterpay hosted a panel of experts on Clubhouse on May 26 including Forbes-Bell, fashion futurist Geraldine Wharry and celebrity stylist Kate Young.
Key takeaways behind current consumer motivation included consumers wanting to embrace identities and everyday lifestyles that now function differently coming out of a year of lockdowns and a pandemic. People, the experts agreed, are using shopping habits to fuel self care and support causes like sustainability. Additionally, used as a time to clean out old items, people were able to reflect and are now more likely to buy higher quality items.
“We have also been seeing a shift towards more unisex clothing, with muted colors and shapes that flatter every figure,” Wharry said. “These clothing items may help shoppers simplify their wardrobe after a year of constant overstimulation online. As we enter a new age of fashion with Gen Z at the helm, fashion is sure to become less about following trends and more about your personal method of self-expression.”

In support of today’s consumers and the younger generation’s attention to achieving better financial health, Afterpay has also launched a multimillion-dollar campaign demonstrating how consumers can pay later while paying better. The company’s first TV spots in the U.S. feature Australian actress Reel Wilson.

Afterpay campaign billboard. 
Frank Galland

“Afterpay was created to give people access to the things they want whilst maintaining control over their money. We’re thrilled to partner with our fellow Aussie — Rebel Wilson — to encourage more people to join our movement and pay better,” said Geoff Seeley, chief marketing officer at Afterpay.
Through the campaign, Wilson humorously demonstrates why it is better to pay for things using your own money overtime instead of collecting debt and accruing interest with an overall message that consumers can claim control over finances. The campaign also includes billboards and interactive murals in 17 markets including Los Angeles, New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Minneapolis in the U.S.
“It was an honor to partner with Afterpay on its first global campaign because financial health has always been important to me,” Wilson said. “Paying better to me means paying in a way that benefits me, and also not paying any unnecessary fees or added extras. That’s exactly what Afterpay’s Pay Better is empowering consumers to do.”
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PayPal Expands Post-purchase Offerings With Happy Returns Acquisition

PayPal Expands Post-purchase Offerings With Happy Returns Acquisition

Despite many parts of the online shopping experience becoming increasingly easy, the returns process can be wasteful, expensive and arduous — for both the consumer and the retailer.

Launched six years ago to tackle online returns head-on, Happy Returns has made it its mission to make the process “beautiful for shoppers, retailers and the planet,” using technology to offer in-person return drop-offs as a solution and boasting a model that reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by 0.12 pounds per item returned. Today, the company’s network includes hundreds of brand partners using its returns software and more than 2,600 locations in 1,200-plus unique metro areas in every state in the continental U.S.

Now, by joining PayPal, Happy Returns will bring its technology and platform to even more consumers and retailers, expanding upon the company’s post-purchase experience. With PayPal’s support, David Sobie, chief executive officer of Happy Returns, said there will be “additional focus on improving [the Happy Returns] platform and expanding its footprint, all with the goal of providing more customers with the most seamless, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to make and process returns.”
Here, Sobie talks to WWD about the pandemic’s impact on the returns process, alleviating the environmental effects of returns and joining forces with PayPal.

WWD: What impact has the pandemic had on the returns process for consumers?
David Sobie: The pandemic had three main impacts on returns. First, along with the increase in online shopping, came a steep rise in returns. And at the same time, shipping delays and cost increases made returning by mail less attractive than ever. Many shoppers were working from home, without access to printers. As such, printing return shipping labels was an arduous task, and shoppers were hesitant to send items back, knowing shipping delays could extend timelines for refunds from weeks to months.
The additional challenge for any in-person experience during the pandemic was the unknown impact of health risks being inside, interacting with store associates and passing a product from one person to another.
WWD: From your perspective, has the need for an evolved returns process been amplified due to the pandemic?
D.S.: Yes, the need for a more evolved returns process has greatly amplified due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic. This demand spurred the development of our touch-free returns process. And with more people doing their shopping online comes a greater volume of returns, so the need for a seamless returns process has become more important than ever.
Naturally, shoppers have turned to friction-free return experiences, like Happy Returns, which allows box-free return drop-offs for an immediate refund. Happy Returns redesigned its service in June 2020 to be 100 percent contact-free, relying on QR codes to speed return transactions and eliminating common handling of returns, with shoppers bagging items themselves at drop-off. The changes were wildly popular among shoppers and led to an increase in the adoption of box-free in-person return drop-off.
WWD: How does this partnership between PayPal and Happy Returns provide consumers with a more seamless overall experience?

D.S.: PayPal’s expertise is removing friction in payments and Happy Returns expertise is removing friction in returns. You can imagine a lot of possibilities from bringing those two capabilities together.
WWD: Can you speak to how Happy Returns helps to alleviate some of the environmental impacts of returns in retail?
D.S.: Happy Returns helps to alleviate some of the environmental impacts of retail by operating completely cardboard-free and by accepting box-free returns through a nationwide network of Return Bar locations where online shoppers who purchase goods from Happy Returns’ growing list of retail partners can return products in-person.  
[Specifically, the process works with] Happy Returns aggregating returned items across participating retailers then bulk shipping them in reusable packaging to regional return hubs for sorting, processing and routing to the most efficient destinations. The packaging shipped to the retailer’s distribution centers is then collected and reused at Return Bar locations.
The Happy Returns model reduces the amount of greenhouse gas , or GHG, emissions by 0.12 pounds per item returned. For example, a retailer with 1 million annual returns would reduce its environmental footprint by 120,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
As part of PayPal, we plan to scale Happy Returns to more of PayPal’s merchants, which will expand our positive environmental impact.
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