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IKEA backs returns management start-up as it seeks circular business model

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IKEA has invested in a US start-up which will help it manage waste from returns.

Ingka Group, which owns the majority of IKEA stores, announced it had participated in the latest funding round of returns optimisation technology provider Optoro.

The start-up helps retailers manage and then resell returned and excess merchandise using data analytics and machine learning.

IKEA US will implement Optoro’s technology in 10 IKEA distribution centres, 50 retail stores and its US customer support centre to streamline the returns flow and improve the customer experience. It will explore expanding this to other markets in the future.

The technology will help it remove waste from the reverse supply chain as it seeks to become a “circular business” by 2030. This means everything that is produced is reused within the business as much as possible. IKEA is trialling furniture rental as one way of achieving this.

Javier Quiñones, president and chief sustainability officer of IKEA Retail US, said: “We’re on a mission to become a circular business by 2030, and we need partners like Optoro who can help us achieve our goals.

“Optoro’s solution will enable us to eliminate much of the waste created in the reverse supply chain, from minimizing the carbon emissions released in return shipping to finding the best next homes for returned items.”

Tobin Moore, CEO and cofounder of Optoro, said: “We are thrilled to partner with IKEA Retail, a global leader in designing a more sustainable retail future,

“IKEA shares our mission of looking to innovation and technology to build the circular economy.

“Through our work together, we will be able to make an even larger impact on reducing waste from returns, while also improving the customer experience to help fuel ecommerce growth.” 

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